Thursday, September 27, 2018

Sweden's most wanted moths

“Nationalnyckeln” (NN) is a Swedish biological encyclopedia. Originally, over 100 volumes were projected, but at the time of writing, it's unclear how many will really be published. Since 2005, 17 volumes have seen the light of day. Or at least been rushed to the printers! This one (code DE 1-13) covers the first 13 families of Lepidoptera, considered to be more “primitive” than other butterflies and moths. 12 of the families covered are “micro-moths”, while one (Hepialidae, which includes the Ghost Moth) has traditionally been classified as “macro-moths”. Today, these terms are generally considered somewhat unscientific.

The volume describes all 256 Nordic species of the relevant families, and is one of the largest NN volumes, being 645 pages long. It's also one of the more boring. Let's face it, micro-moths aren't *that* interesting, unless you're a super-nerd extraordinaire. But if you are (provided you also understand Swedish), you'll gonna love this one, since most covered species are illustrated in color (if you can call micro-moths colorful), with additional black-and-white drawings of their genitalia. The keys to identification are bilingual (Swedish-English), and very short English summaries of the species presentations have been appended to the main entries.

My little butterfly collection was actually destroyed (and eaten) by moth larvae, but unfortunately the culprits remain unidentified, although I'm sure they are hiding somewhere in this massive tome! Let me guess. The Common Clothes Moth got tired of eating Swedish textiles? The only interesting section (to me, at any rate) deals with Psychidae. Within this family, many species have bizarre, wingless and parthenogenetic forms. Somehow, I consider the idea of a wingless moth slightly sinister…

But that's me. I will nevertheless award this volume of Nationalnyckeln five stars!

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