08.19.2020 Fiery Dragon

How an insect is named is often interesting.  I’ve had this moth, a Mint-loving Pyrausta-Pyrausta acrionalis, visit the boneset for years.  As I was putting this post together I wondered about the name and found that Pyrausta is a mythological small dragon that lived in fire and could not exist without. I’d guess, as moths are attracted to a flame, it is an appropriate connection.

This moth is rather small, @10mm or about 1/3″ and does resemble fire. Common Boneset aka Boneset Thoroughwort-Eupatorium perfoliatum is not a mint but in the aster family and I have not seen these on our mints but I’ll take its word for it.

About Steve Gingold

I am a Nature Photographer with interests in all things related. Water, flowers, insects and fungi are my main interests but I am happy to photograph wildlife and landscapes and all other of Nature's subjects.
This entry was posted in Closeup Photography, Insects, Lepidoptera, macro photography, Moths, Nature Photography, Western Massachusetts and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to 08.19.2020 Fiery Dragon

  1. I’ve often noticed that some biologists have good imaginations in the way they name species. As for the myth, I’ve never heard of a dragon with the features and size of an insect. The website at https://offbeat.fandom.com/wiki/Pyrausta gives more information, including this:

    “There are few primary sources describing the pyrausta, and none of them have much information. However, Una Woodruff revived the legend with her book Inventorum Naturum, a fictional translation of a nonexistent journal by Pliny the Elder. Her interpretation of the creatures as small, insectoid dragons has been mistakenly attributed to Pliny himself, and the draconic image of pyrausta has spread to popular culture.”

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    • “fictional translation of a nonexistent journal”. The mistaken attribution to Pliny mirrors what we have seen with other similar credits such as “The Pelican” that folks say Nash did but was actually penned by Merritt.

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      • I’ve pointed out that misattribution to several people in blogland, along with various others I’ve found on the Internet in general. I always spend time trying to verify the wording and the source of anything I quote.

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  2. Tack sharp shots. It has a beautiful pattern.

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  3. A very handsome moth. My folks have several varieties of mint growing in their garden, but I don’t remember ever seeing this one. Great name, too.

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    • I’ve only seen this species on the Boneset but I am sure it earns its common name despite my not seeing it. Maybe now that you’ve seen a picture it may appear next time you visit. Generally I see them in the early evening.

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  4. susurrus says:

    Beautiful! Boneset is a great name too.

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  5. Todd Henson says:

    That is a pretty fascinating bit about the insect sized dragon. I can see it in its coloration, and you have a great point about them being attracted to flames.

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    • There are some great stories behind common and scientific names both. Then there are names that defy the imagination and others that are named for those who find them. I guess Smaug would not have been as fearsome if a Pyrausta.

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  6. Eliza Waters says:

    Interesting that it is glossy… cool seeing the detail in the boneset, too.

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    • It isn’t really glossy but looks that way because of the flash overexposing just a bit on some of the scales. Boneset is one of my favorite wildflowers both for its beauty and the way it attracts so many different species.

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  7. bluebrightly says:

    How interesting, I’m glad you looked it up. it’s nice to see Boneset again, and that’s a handsome little moth, beautifully photographed.

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  8. krikitarts says:

    I can certainly see the resemblance to glowing ember or flowing lava. Thanks for taking the time to look into the historical background of the name of this pretty little hottie.

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  9. krikitarts says:

    I sure can: The first in the series was Dragonflight (1968), and it’s the essential introduction. There are many more, but the one that introduces the tiny ones (fire lizards) was Dragonquest, Part 2 (1971). Great stuff for lockdown.

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    • I went to Amazon and did a Look Inside of the first book. Not sure I could stay with that fantasy. I read LOTR quite a long time and am sure now I’d not be able to read it. Something in my brain changed years ago and now most anything I read puts me to sleep…even magazine articles.

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  10. Interesting about the Latin name Steve. I often wonder about the etymology of the naming. Lovely shot of this gorgeous mint moth.

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