Canterbury mural

If you’ve been to Canterbury recently, you may have noticed a striking mural on the side of a kebab shop at the corner of St Peter’s Street. As you drive through the Westgate Towers, it’s hard to miss. The mural features an enormous cow-wheat plant in full flower, with a heath fritillary butterfly feeding on it. The mural showcases the fine detail of the butterfly’s intricate underwing pattern. Below and to the right, a second fritillary displays the rich colors of its upper parts. On the right-hand side of the mural, a spray of goldenrod serves as a resting place for a white-spotted sable micro-moth.

So why are these two insects portrayed on a wall in the heart of Canterbury? In the bottom left-hand corner of the mural, you’ll find the logo of Butterfly Conservation—the outline of a butterfly with the body of a tree. This is the national charity concerned with the protection of butterflies and moths.

It’s fairly common knowledge that the heath fritillary, one of the UK’s rarest butterflies, has its stronghold in The Blean. However, much less is known about the white-spotted sable. Butterfly Conservation aimed to address this with its three-year project, “Kent’s Magnificent Moths.” This initiative focused on eight rare species, including the black-veined white (found on Wye Downs), Sussex emerald, and the white-spotted sable.

Despite being a micro-moth, the white-spotted sable is remarkably conspicuous. It is black with large, round white spots on its wings, which led me to nickname it the “Domino moth.” This moth can still be found locally in Kent, Sussex, Surrey, north-west England, Herefordshire, and Gloucestershire. Occasionally, it appears in Blean Woods, where some of the rides hold an abundance of goldenrod, the main food plant for its larvae.

While Butterfly Conservation has presumably sponsored the mural, it’s a shame that the organisation appears to have missed the opportunity to promote itself more broadly, and these two rare insects in particular. Unfortunately, there is no accompanying panel explaining what the mural is depicting.