Sunday, 6 June 2010
Return of the pink 'un
Happiness! After a year's absence, the most striking of all the moths which come to my trap has returned, and in style. Not just one, but two Elephant Hawks were slumbering on the eggboxes this morning, lovely in their tasteful, interior designer livery of pinks and olive greens. Penny tells the story of a friend who worked on a local paper which dropped it's Pink 'Un - the sports section, sometimes also a Green 'Un - and then revived it with the slogan 'Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! The Pink 'Un's out again tonight.' This was printed on the first Saturday of the return next to a picture of the paper's beaming managing director and his wife, causing much merriment.
Well, our pink 'uns have been away too; but we have plenty of rosebay willow herb which their caterpillars love and I am glad that they are clearly established here. I have mentioned this story before but I don't expect any but the most diligent reader to go hunting back through more than two years of posts, so please forgive me repeating myself. The great John Armitage, curator of natural history at Leeds City Museum when I was a boy, encouraged my brother and me to go out looking for Elephant Hawk caterpillars in the abundant willow herb on the verge of Leeds ring road. Wait until August, when they will have changed colour from green to grey, he advised, because they will be easier to spot. Sure enough, there they were, and we hatched six adult insects. When freshly-emerged from the chrysalis, their colours are ravishing.
Why elephant? Here's a picture of a mature, grey caterpillar which I think explains. I pinched it from the website of the excellent Wickford Wildlife Society in Essex (www.wickfordwildlife.co.uk) to whom grateful thanks. Young readers, or young-at-heart ones, check out your willow herb in two months' time.