Dark Crimson Underwing in VC29

I’d heard rumours of a new moth in town…I say town, I mean the countryside in and around the counties of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire. It’s one with dark, but patterned forewings, and a crimson blush to its hind wings, which are often hidden from view when the moth is at rest. Not to be confused with the Red Underwing (which are “everywhere”), this is quite a rarity this far north (Cambridgeshire, Vice County 29, VC29)

The Dark Crimson Underwing, Catocala sponsa (Linnaeus, 1767), is usually found the southern-most county of mainland England, Hampshire and in the New Forest where it lays its eggs on the bark of old oak trees. But, it’s been heading northwards for a while and, like I say there were sightings in neighbouring counties to ours, Cambridgeshire and as it turns out in Cambridgeshire itself.

Crimson hindwings aside, pretty well camouflaged against a lich-encrusted barkI didn’t know about any Cambs sightings when one turned up to the 40-Watt actinic lure overnight on a sultry 11th August and roosted until morning among the cardboard egg cartons. I must add it arrived with 300+ other moths about 40 different species. But, the DCUW was the most splendid. I shared the sighting with an envious County Moth Recorder who is based a little further north in Ely and mentioned it in passing to a few other people, some were impressed others pointed out that they’d had one too in their mothing either last week or the week before.

Hindwing closeup

One of the people I mentioned it to was C5 bassist Roger B. I was lamenting to him that in the absence of big game safari in the British Isles the birds and the Lepidoptera are the next best thing. He’s a bit of a fan of moths too and pointed out that I should perhaps have a more positive attitude to my hobbies. Everyone knows what an elephant looks like, he said, but not many people know what a Dark Crimson Underwing is. So, bonus points all round.

Macro closeup with tubes of the moth’s compound eye, such foreshortening of the depth of field that the eye is pretty much the only thing sharp in the photo