UK moths

Pierre Zagatti zagatti at
Tue Dec 14 03:40:16 EST 1999

There are moths (and also beetles) that are adults in winter only.
Your moths are probably winter moths (Operophtera brumata - Geometridae):

Wendell Roelofs showed that they have an upper temperature threshold:
they cannot fly and mate above this temperature (I don't remember exactly
the temperature but I can easily find the reference if you're interested).

Concerning the European beetles, you may find a similar behaviour
in Vesperus xatarti (Cerambycidae), although there is no upper temperature
threshold apparently (paper in press):
(this link to the english text has fewer photos than on the French page, just
click on the small flag at the bottom of the page :-).

The moths may increase their thorax temperature by fanning wings for a while
before taking off, so there are no physiological contradictions between ambient

temperature and muscle activity.
Some scientists in Canada and Scandinavia studied extensively such adaptations
to cold.

Jacques Francis wrote:

> Driving along quiet single-track country roads in wooded Surrey tonight
> (13-Dec-99), with the car's thermometer showing 0 to -2 and after a day of
> dank grey overcast with long periods of rain (yes, I'd rather be in
> Barbados), I caught at least 30 moths in the headlights. They all looked
> about the same in size and colour - buff, and were quickly flapping their
> wings. As I don't know a great deal about moths, I was surprised to see any
> at all at these low temperatures.
> Does anybody know if this is normal and I've been rather unobservant in the
> past, or whether it's unusual. What sends moths to bed for the winter, and
> are there some that come out irrespective of the weather?
> Jacques Francis

INRA Unite de Phytopharmacie et Mediateurs Chimiques
78026 Versailles Cedex
Tel: (33) 1 30 83 31 18
e-mail zagatti at

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