Saturday, 12 July 2008

Can moths save the world?

The answer to the question in the title of this entry is: Yes. There are loads of Iranians, Israelis, Brits and Zimbabweans who would get along famously if they stuck to moths (or the weather, footballing, gardening etc).
I collected in Zimbabwe in my gap year (1968, 17, goodness how long ago) and my students at Bernard Mizeki College in Marandellas, now Marandera, were far more interested in helping me find caterpillars than attending to my English and history 'lessons'. Mind you, we did eat the caterpillars as well and very nice they were, in the manner of crisps. Photographing this Scarce Swallowtail butterfly in Turkey last month had the same effect. Local people were greatly interested, and also knowledgeable and helpful in tracking other things down. The best example I had of this was on a family holiday in Italy when I was 16 and one evening, to my intense excitement, Convolvulus Hawk moths appeared round the village streetlamps. The lamps were much taller than I was, but the village mobilised a selection of ladders and people held them steady while I clambered up and waved my net about (it would be a camera now). Hawk Moths this size are as big as bats, so there was tremendous glee, enthusiasm and celebratory toasting all round. Luckily Convolvuluses can't make a squeak when you scare or catch them, as the even bigger Death's Head Hawk Moth can. Now there's a moth I'd really like to find one day.

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