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a. comparison of a moth antennae and fern.

b. comparison of peppered moth (biston betularia) typica (light, spotted) and carbonara (black).

c. comparison of a birch tree (betula) seed pod and moth pupae.


Fig. 1. Peppered Moth (Biston Betularia) caterpillar. Able to change hues from light green to dark brown; resembles a twig.

Fig. 2. Biston Betularia pupae stage. Spends the winter underground. Pupae is encompassed by a cocoon.

Fig. 3. Biston Betularia adult, typica (light, spotted). Easily blends into tree lichens and the light bark of birch trees.


The Story of the Peppered Moth


At the beginning of the nineteenth century industrial revolution, white spotted peppered moths began to be replaced in number by their black-winged counterparts in urban areas. 


Peppered moths avoid predators buy camouflaging themselves in tree lichen, so as factory pollution killed the lichens, and soot covered the tree trunks, the white moths became very visible to predators such as sparrows. Because of their darker wings, the melanic moths were able to camouflage themselves better in the changing environment. 


The peppered moth case became an example of natural selection, and the spotted peppered moth population decline was later reversed with the Clean Air Acts in the 1950s. 


Notable Details


1. Landscape Painting

In the lower left corner is a landscape inspired by 19th century painter Thomas Rousseau’s “Evening under the Birches.” 


Birch trees are a food source of the peppered moth, and Thomas Rousseau is known as one of the first artist-conservationists:

“As much as he was concerned about landscapes as an artist, Rousseau was committed to work for the upkeep of nature as an activist too. In this regard, he protested the rapid industrialization and encroachment on pristine lands and became more and more involved with the affairs of the Forest of Fontainebleau. At the time plans were laid to raze sections of the forest for the resources and private enterprise. Rousseau wrote an impassioned petition to Emperor Napoléon III to establish a protected land preserve, which was successfully instituted in 1852-53 making the painter one of the earliest environmental conservationists.” (Artstory)


2. Fern Fever

In the 1800s, there was a so-called “fern fever.” Upper and lower classes alike would venture into the woods to obtain various species of ferns for their collections; pressing them or keeping them in stylish Wardian cases.


As this was at the time of the industrial revolution, it may have been because people sought to add a bit of green to their now very urban environments. Nature and greenery was no longer accessible straight out the door as it had always been. Fern inspired fashions, wallpaper, and furniture became popular for upper class families, with William Morris as a leading designer.


Below is a quote written about the women enthusiasts in particular from Charles Kingsley, 1855:


“Your daughters, perhaps, have been seized with the prevailing “Pteridomania,” and are collecting and buying ferns, with Ward’s cases wherein to keep them (for which you have to pay), and wrangling over unpronounceable names of species (which seem to be different in each new Fern-book that they buy) till the Pteridomania seems to you somewhat of a bore: and yet you cannot deny that they find an enjoyment in it, and are more active, more cheerful, more self-forgetful over it, than they would have been over novels and gossip, crochet and Berlin-wool."  (Charles Kingsley, author of Glaucus, or the Wonders of the Shore, 1855)




Peppered Moth
graphite on bristol board
11 x 14”


Peppered Moth - original drawing

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