The Manchester Moth

January 24, 2013

One of only three known examples of a Manchester Moth










A scientific conundrum that survives to this day…

When amateur collector Robert Cribb discovered strange yellow and brown moths on Kersal Moor near Manchester in 1829, he had no idea that he’d stumbled upon a scientific conundrum that survives to this day. Unable to identify the species, Cribb passed specimens from the 50 or so he’d gathered to collector friends, including one R. Wood, whose expert pal John Curtis described the month as a new species – and named it after him, much to Cribb’s annoyance.

For Cribb, the final straw came when fruitless searches for more examples of the moth led to accusations that he’d simply imported an alien species and passed it off as local. He agreed to sell the remaining specimens to a friend; half the money was paid up front, the other half to be handed over on receipt of the collection. The only problem with this was that the collection was in the hands of a pub landlady – a deposit on money Cribb owed. By the time Cribb and his friend arrived to reclaim the collection, the due date for the debt had passed and the collection burned.

To this day, only three examples of The Manchester Moth survive – one in the Manchester Musuem, one in London’s Natural History Museum and one in Melbourne, Australia. It has never been seen anywhere since. While some have speculated that the month arrived as caterpillars in cotton consignments to the nearby mills from India or America, a Canadian researcher in 1995 decreed Schiffermulleria woodiella* native to Britain. And very much extinct.


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