Many British Moths have weird and wonderful names, like Cream-bordered Green-Pea, True Lover’s Knot, Merveille du Jour, The Nonconformist, The Saxon and Old Lady to name but a few! But one is named after a soothsayer or some would claim, a witch, who lived from 1488 to 1561 in Yorkshire, Mother Shipton. Old Mother Shipton, as she is sometimes called, was born in a cave in Knaresborough and is sometimes unflatteringly described as an ugly old crone in her later years. It is claimed that she foretold the Great Fire of London and all the damage that would do. Another true prediction attributed to her was the defeat of the Spanish Armada. As her reputation spread long after her death claims were made that she had predicted many tragic events that had happened in the UK and even as far afield as Australia and the USA! She would also brew potions and tinctures as medicines to ward off bad spirits and cure ailments, hence folk calling her a witch. But her understanding of the herbs and flowers and their natural healing properties point to her being a great herbalist and a good naturalist.
But sometimes quotes attributed to her were way off the mark, like one famous one:
The world to an end shall come In eighteen hundred and eighty one.
Which obviously never did happen – well you can’t be right all of the time (even if you’re from Yorkshire!!).
So what has this got to do with a Cheshire Quarry, well, in the great tradition of Old Mother Shipton, I predict that if you read on all will be revealed! Earlier this week, in the sunny weather I headed out looking for invertebrates, insects, spiders, etc, which being cold-blooded take advantage of the warm weather to be active and feed and mate. As well as notable butterflies like Small Heaths and Common Blues a fast fluttering moth was spotted, feeding on the birds-foot trefoil flowers. As it settled a quick glance with binoculars revealed a distinctive upperwing marking, resembling an old crones head!! It was a Mother Shipton Moth!! This moth is a day flying species with a wingspan of approximately 30mm and inhabits grassy habitats across the UK. It is well distributed and worth keeping an eye out as its wing markings are very distinctive and always fun to see.
To illustrate just how well the markings resemble Mother Shipton I’ve put together a couple of pictures. The first is an engraving of her face:
Followed by my picture of the moth from the Cheshire Quarry with the detail of the Mother Shipton ‘face’ picked out and highlighted:
You may or may not believe that this bonny Yorkshire lass could predict the future but I think we all agree that she has had her face immortalised on the wings of a pretty moth that you could all go in search of in the sunny days to come.