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Sighting of a Silver Y brightens the day

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 17, 2012

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On a leaf in front of me a Silver Y moth perches. It has its wings closed but I was fortunate enough to have been in the right spot when it arrived with its wings open so could clearly see the 'Y' markings on its forewings. Now it looks more like a brown leaf upon another.

It is Plusia gamma and thus both its common and scientific names refer to the silvery white mark on each forewing, which resembles the letter Y and the Greek letter gamma. As well as being on the wing by day, the moths are readily attracted to light at night and will visit flowers at dusk.

This particular moth I am watching may be part of the large autumn generation born of spring immigrants that arrive here from southern Europe. In some years they arrive in enormous numbers and may be found all over the British Isles from May to October.

Fortunately, the larvae feed on a wide variety of cultivated and wild plants between June and September so should not suffer a lack of food. When ready to pupate they spin white, silken cocoons, usually under a leaf of the food plant, the moths emerging about three weeks later from a black pupae. The Silver Y is one of the noctuas, a huge family of small or medium-sized moths sometimes known as Owlets. They usually have fully developed probosces with which they are able to suck nectar from flowers. The males and females of most noctua species are alike.

Lovely English names, some of these moths have. Heart and Dart, True Lover's Knot, Flame Shoulder, Purple Clay and Square-spot Rustic are but a few.

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