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Finally!

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Since the age of 11, I have understood the effect of the industrialisation of the UK on wildlife. With the increase in coal usage, sooty deposits built up on buildings and the air quality plummeted.

Lichens suffered and died or failed to grow and pale barked trees were dirtied by soot. A beautiful moth called Biston betularia, or the peppered moth, underwent a shift in population numbers.
There are 2 basic forms a pale form and a melanic/dark form. In pre industrial Britain the pale form was the prominent form and this is borne out by the collections of the English gentleman. A melanic one was a rarity.

By the late Victorian age it was the other way round. The assumption being the pale form was getting spotted and eaten by birds. Though the numbers of them hatching is usually pretty even. They follow basic Mendelian inheritance rules.

As most of you know I went on to teach biology and for 35yrs I have relied on photographs in text books etc to illustrate the moths.

On Monday, Victoria woke me up at 5.30 to show me what was in the moth trap. There was a moth, just bigger than a Peacock butterfly and she said ‘Know what it is?’ when I said I didn’t she just laughed and said ‘Call your self a teacher? Its Biston betularia.’

I had no idea they were so big. I thought about the size of a thumb nail. Their wing span is typically 45-65 mm that’s almost 2 1/2".

So finally I have seen a live peppered moth.

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Comments

 

I remember learning about this moth in school but I didn't know they were so big. I've never seen one.

5 Jun, 2021

 

as I said a first for me and in my own garden. They are quite common apparently. I was really excited and for the first time really sad that I wasn't in school to share it.

5 Jun, 2021

 

How satisfying! It is a beautiful insect.

5 Jun, 2021

 

That must have been an exciting moment - to actually see what you've been studying about for 35 years and he's just fluttering along minding his own business (the moth). What a site it must have been. Maybe their numbers are returning to normal. That's encouraging. Congratulations!

5 Jun, 2021

 

You must have been thrilled to bits! I never imagined them like that. Victoria must be very keen on her subject to get up at 5.30 to check the trap! You can congratulate yourself on inspiring her, and now you have the reward! Are they always nocturnal?

5 Jun, 2021

 

I was, just going to say, you must be very pleased, Eileen! Lovely to see it in your own garden too! Victoria in her efforts to get you up earlier than you’d planned probably - has obviously succeeded in making your day!!!! It’s a wonderful detailed pic! Thank you for sharing.

5 Jun, 2021

 

The light form population has recovered since the Clean Air Act of 1956 and their numbers are good here in the UK Paul.

We were up at 4.30 today and had 4 different moths in it Yorks and yes this is one of the nocturnal fliers. Most moths are nocturnal though there are some exceptions. Once we get passed the summer solstice it will get later and later to get up as it gets darker.

I dont mind getting up early with her Kate, its one of the things we enjoy doing together. Sewing with Elizabeth, eldest daughter, and nature with Toria. I'm starting to flag at the moment.

5 Jun, 2021

 

It’s lovely how you do lots of things with your girls, it keeps you all bonded and also it’s always great to keep your skills going! Just make sure you get some rest too, Eileen! 😊

6 Jun, 2021

 

In addition to the clean air act of 1956, I am reminded that VE Day of May 8, 1945 and VJ Day of August 15, 1945 helped clean up the air too with the cessation of the practice of burning villages, towns and cities. All that going on for four years must have had a significant change on the climate though I have not heard of any environmental impact studies on that.

6 Jun, 2021

 

Never thought of that Loostrife!

6 Jun, 2021

 

That is true Loosetrife and with the conflicts still going on in the world it is an area that really needs looking at.

I know after the Trade tower attacks [9/11] and planes didnt fly it was noted that the skies were clearer as there was less vapour in the atmosphere.

A feature called Global dimming has been recorded and continues to be investigated since the 1960's. it fluctuates according to how much 'muck' there is in the atmosphere. So volcanic eruptions as well as Space travel have added to that from airlines.

7 Jun, 2021

 

Never seen this particular moth before. I'd heard of some insects changing from a lighter colour to a darker one & vice versa as they try to cope with pollution or the absence of.

7 Jun, 2021

 

Eileen, your blog reminds me of Coelacanth fish. The Coelacanth is a cave dwelling fish that lives 2300 feet below the surface and was only known from fossils until 1938. We just didn't have means to explore that far down. It was thought to be extinct millions and millions of years ago. Well, it was discovered again in 1938 and lives a lot further down then we thought possible. There are several colonies of these fish thriving today. It just shows how little we really know about the natural world and how these creatures can often evade our best historians and scholars. There is so much we don't understand about our own world. I mean we thought the Monarch butterflies were going extinct because their numbers were dwindling in Mexico. Very elaborate counters were set up to keep track of the migration between Canada & Mexico. But nobody was checking Southern California, Florida and all along the Gulf of Mexico where the Monarchs were establishing new migration sites. So simply studying Mexico doesn't give an accurate accounting. Many just didn't want to go to Mexico. They went to Florida instead, or California for whatever reason.

7 Jun, 2021

 

Balcony this moth has been in school biology books for at least 60 yrs now and that is where I came across it. They are counted as common but rarely seen

Bathgate the coelacanth was also in my brother's biology book too and was discovered as a 'recently trawled' fish by a Miss Latimer. Its species name is latimerii in her honour. There are now videos of the fish swimming as they are encountered quite frequently. In the Natural History museum London there is a fossilized one and a 'pickled' one next to it. They are classed as Living Fossils.

There are quite a few examples in the plant world too eg the Wollemi Pine in Australia in 1994.

7 Jun, 2021

 

That's fascinating Eileen. I've seen videos floating around the internet Their lobed fins also function as feet for walking along the bottom and think of the tremendous pressure they can sustain at that depth.

7 Jun, 2021

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