Monday, 27 February 2012
The false split
Stewart Sexton's recent rant on the practice of splitting moths into micros and macros has got me thinking (not a bad thing, I know). Splitting them is something that I am guilty of. Stewart is quite right in pointing out that there is no sense behind doing so - they are all moths! It is comparable to splitting a list of birds into passerines and non-passerines.In fact, if we are to be pedantic, a pure list of lepidoptera includes butterflies in the order, being placed between micro moths and macro moths in the systematic list (with a few macro moths appearing before the micros to prove what a debacle the micro/macro split really is).
From my own experience, this division really started when I first took an interest in moths. Apart from The Observer's Book of Moths, the first identification guides I possessed were the two volumes of South's which I obtained in 1981. There were no micros illustrated. Therefore I was not in the best position to tackle them, so ignored them.There was a companion volume for pyralids and plume moths, but I kept away from it.
When Bernard Skinner gave the world his ground breaking book in the mid-1980s a whole new generation of moth-ers were born. Again, no micros were dealt with and this meant that all of the recent converts did not have micros on their radar.
My thoughts are that, if you came into moths from birding in the 1980s (and a lot of us did) you are more likely to have the micro/macro divide. Later converts have been blessed with far more micro literature, plus, more importantly, the internet as a resource. Therefore the chances are that they did not come equiped with 'micro-blinkers' - hence no perceived divide.