Ferocious, tree-like and beautiful…

Draws in Shelford room

Katherine Child has spent a lot of time photographing the Hope Entomological collections at the Museum; you may remember her beautiful work from the Light Touch exhibition in 2014. But with somewhere between 5 and 6 million insects in the collection, there is still plenty to explore.

Since September she’s been working on a project to photograph African moths and their labels for www.africanmoths.com, which aims to provide as much information as possible for the identification and recording of moths throughout the African continent. The site already displays thousands of images of stunning specimens, some taken in their natural environment and others from collections such as the one here in Oxford.

Katherine reveals some of the challenges and delights of her work:

**

Trying to track down moth specimens is a great excuse to browse some of the beautiful moths in the Lepidoptera collections.

Trying to track down moth specimens is a great excuse to browse some of the beautiful moths in the Lepidoptera collections.

One of the best things about this project for me is probably the fact that it involves exploring the collections to find all the moths that I need to document. The cabinets in the Shelford room, where some of the Lepidoptera are kept, contain drawer after drawer of beautiful and fascinating specimens, and trying to track down a particular moth is a good excuse to browse through the hundreds that are up there.

The photos below show some of my favourite specimens from those I’ve photographed so far.  Some I like just for aesthetic reasons, others have interesting historic labels, are cleverly camouflaged or have appealing names.

Paralacydes arborifera, for instance, is named because of the pattern on its wings; arbori is Latin for tree and fera refers to a beast or creature.  It is easy to see why this moth was named “tree-beast”.

Paralacydes arborifera and its labels: one of several thousand moths which will eventually go on to the African Moths website. Arborifera translates from Latin as tree-beast or tree-creature.

Paralacydes arborifera and its labels: one of several thousand moths which will appear on the African Moths website.

Amphicallia bellatrix was presumably given the name Bellatrix (meaning warrioress, war-like or ferocious) because of its striking warning colours.  As with the stripes on a bee or wasp, yellow and black tends to mean danger in the natural world.

Amphicallia bellatrix displaying the striking warning colours which give it the name bellatrix meaning warlike, ferocious or warrioress.

Amphicallia bellatrix displaying the striking warning colours which give it the name bellatrix meaning warlike, ferocious or warrioress.

Eutomis minceus, found in South Africa, displaying beautiful iridescence.

Eutomis minceus, found in South Africa, displaying beautiful iridescence.

It is always interesting to see a little more information about how the specimens were found or caught. The description on the label below records how the moth was initially mistaken for a froghopper when caught by ‘boy’, and was only later identified to be a moth.

Photo of Carpostalagma viridis and its labels. The large label second from right reads: ‘I am sure this mimics a frog hopper. Boy brought it me in fingers and I put it in bottle thinking it was a frog hopper – and only when I put it in paper did I realise. Wings at rest along body.’

Photo of Carpostalagma viridis and its labels. The large label second from right reads: ‘I am sure this mimics a frog hopper. Boy brought it me in fingers and I put it in bottle thinking it was a frog hopper – and only when I put it in paper did I realise. Wings at rest along body.’

I look forward to photographing many more moths over the months to come!

Katherine Child, Image Technician, Life Collections

2 responses to “Ferocious, tree-like and beautiful…

  1. Great pictures. Im photographing live moths of Botswana. Wonder if my pics would be of interest to africanmoths.com I cannot identify them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s