Argent & sable moth


Latin name: Rheumaptera hastata

Wingspan: 30 - 38mm

Where: Flanders Moss NNR, which is just outside the National Park

When: May to early July

The words ‘argent’ and ‘sable’ come from heraldry, meaning ‘silver’ and ‘black’. There is indeed something of the medieval pennant about these dramatic day-flying moths as they flutter across the lowland bogs and damp moorland where they are found.The caterpillars depend on the bog myrtle or young birch saplings that grow in these places for their food and shelter. They ‘spin’ together pairs of leaves to make tiny tents in which they can safely feed and grow, well hidden from birds and other predators.

Argent and sable moths are becoming increasingly rare in England and Wales, but there are many sites in Scotland – including some in and around the National Park – where you still have a chance of seeing these smart pied beauties. Watch out for them on warm, sunny days from May to early July when they are on the wing. If you do see one check that there are no yellow streaks on its body or wings – which would make it a magpie moth.

If it is indeed an argent and sable moth please get in contact with Butterfly Conservation Scotland, which is working to find out where this threatened species can still be found.

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Any natural place contains an infinite reservoir of information, and therefore the potential for inexhaustible new discoveries.

Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods