Saturday, December 28, 2013

A green gem of a moth

The Etruscan emerald is a beautiful green gem of a moth that often spends the daylight hours resting on green leaves on which it is well camouflaged and difficult to spot. With luck you might find one that, probably because it had no other option, landed on a wall on which it becomes very visible.

This moth is relatively large. A female can have a wingspan of just over 23 centimetres. This species is found in southern Europe and Central Asia. The caterpillar has been recorded feeding on several species of plants including fennel. Adult moths can be seen flying from June to October.

The scientific name of the Etruscan emerald is Chlorissa etruscaria from which Maltese lepidopterists coined the Maltese name klorissa Etruska. Two other closely related species can be found in the Maltese islands. Both are rare and it would be difficult for somebody who is not a lepidopterist to find and identify them.

The small grass emerald, known in Maltese as klorissa ─žadra is very rare. It has been recorded in Malta only three times. The latest record dates back to 1982. The other species does not seem to have an English name. In Maltese it has been called the klorissa tar-risq. Its scientific name is Chlorissa faustinata. This species has been recorded in European Mediterranean countries, in North Africa as well as in Syria.

These three species belong to the Geomitridae family. The family got its name because the caterpillars of moths belonging to this family move by using their front legs to hold to the ground and pulling the rest of their body forward by forming a loop giving the impression that they are measuring the ground. Another name for members of this family is inchworms. Only one other species from this family has been recorded in the Maltese islands. 

This article was published in the Times of Malta on 16 October 2913.

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