Sunday, 28 September 2008

Vote Moth (and Moon)

Excitement reigns in the Wainwright household. Saturday's post brought this invitation: 'Would you like to join a moth and bat walk taking place through the Parliamentary estate on 14th October?' Indeed I would. Given the state of world affairs, it may sound like Drake playing bowls while the Armada batted along the Channel, but then look what happened to (a) Drake and (b) the Armada. Checking out the Houses of Lords and Commons for moths - plus what the invite calls 'the opportunity to be photographed close-up with a bat' - will induce the correct sense of calm to cope with crisis.
The main spirit behind the event is an excellent MP called Madeleine Moon. She runs a moth trap at Westminster and fights a sturdy battle in the chamber on behalf of moths. In one speech, she observed that "the statistic that 50 billion moths are required to feed the blue tit population of the UK is staggering", and indeed it is. Where does that figure come from? I shall ask her if I can make the walk. This blog will have come to a temporary, seasonal halt by then, but I shall revive it in her honour. Meanwhile here is a picture of the Indian Moon Moth, courtesy of Danne's Animals website. We'll only find one of these tucked up in the Commons if there's been a recent Parliamentary exchange visit with the Far East. But maybe Madeleine has a picture of one (or the Japanese Moon Moth, the Indonesian Moon Moth, the Spanish Moon Moth or even the Madagascar Moon Moth) on her office door. If you live in Bridgend, vote for her. I would if I did.

7 comments:

sarah meredith said...

it is nowhere nearly as cool as a moth and bat walk on Parliamentary grounds, but in a similar spirit, Greg and I have come up to Prince Edward Island for a week, leaving Paulson and Bernanke on their own to try to sort out our economic future. on a visit to Campobello - the heavenly summer "cottage" of the Roosevelts - we spotted a magnificent bald eagle sitting proudly atop an ancient pier on the water just in front of the house. now if only the usa inspired the same kind of awe and pride as its marvelous symbol. you can see a very poor photo on leschosesquotidiennes.blogspot.com xxs

MartinWainwright said...

Hi there America! Excellent news that you have escaped & I'll look up the bald eagle. Wasn't the symbol poriginally going to be a turkey, but someone (George W Washington no doubt) thought that might be a bit undigified?
Are there moths on Prince Edward Island? Is Prince Edward there as well?
Have a lovely break - and love from Pen too

sarah meredith said...

according to Greg, it was Franklin who originally thought it should be a turkey, but who the wiser head was, he isn't sure. will have to investigate via wikipedia. so far, no moths, but we do have a hurricane heading our way, which should provide some excitement!

MartinWainwright said...

I would much appreciate an eyewitness account of how moths behave in a hurricane. It might have lessons for humans during a credit crunch...

When you next come to Yorkshire, we will show you the village where the turkey made landfall from the US (or American Colonies as we called it then). The usual eagle on which they rest the Bible is a turkey, in the local church

Batten down!

kitenet said...

Re the 50 billion caterpillars statistic, I first saw this in a report by Butterfly Conservation on "The state of Britain's larger moths", an excellent report but a very gloomy one, highlighting the enormous declines that have hit 'common' moths. The 50 billion is for the number of caterpillars eaten by Blue Tit chicks in Britain and Ireland - for Britain alone the estimate is 35 billion. BC says "these are minimum figures based on each pair of birds raising only a single brood each year". See:
http://www.butterfly-conservation.org/text/39/the_state_of_britains_moths.html

Martin (another one who moths!) Harvey

P.S. enjoying the blog, thanks

MartinWainwright said...

Hi Martin - thanks v much for your comment and the info about the statistic. The numbers are extraordinary aren't they, especially when you consider that the maximum number of moths I've ever had in the light trap can't be more than 300 or so, and that's exceptional. Mind you, there is that remarkable figure from Prof Ford's Moths book which I mention way below, of 52,000 Setaceous Hebrew Characters being caught in one trap in one night. How did they count them, though? That's roughly the number of votes in a Parliamentary constituency, and look how long it takes a small army of counters to deal with those on election night. Anyway, I'll track down the report and thanks again for putting me on to it.

kitenet said...

Hmmm, statistics ... according to the latest estimate I can find, the Blue Tit population equates to 3.3 million territories in Great Britain, so if these birds are consuming 35 billion moth caterpillars that is c. 10,000 caterpillars per pair if I've got my maths correct. I'm prepared to believe they eat a lot, but that seems like a huge number. Will see if I can find out how it was calculated.

Martin