Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Carry your own aerial

What have moths got that we haven't? I mean, they don't have an inkling of blankets and teacups, let alone iPods or Pads. Where they do win, however, is on antennae. Just look at the TV-aerial like complexity of this Willow Beauty's headgear. Whether they would be considered a beautiful addition to the likes of Nicole Kidman is a moot point, but if we all had them I guess they would. There would be a whole industry of antennae colouring and grooming and debate about whether criss-cross or simple parallels were the most alluring. It could also be said that Denis Healey, the erstwhile Labour deputy leader, came quite close with his famous eyebrows.

What do antennae do? They carry an incredible battery of sensors for the insect which allow it to fly fast and safely, warn of danger and carry out other tasks. My camera is incapable of showing the intricate structure of the tiny fronds, although it hasn't done too badly in terms of giving the general idea. I'm grateful to Wikipedia, that excellent free source of knowledge, for this electron micrograph of a wasp's antenna, which looks far simpler to the human eye than the feathery version on the Willow Beauty. Why some moths are graced by such beautiful structures while others have something resembling a snippet of wire is the subject of much discussion. It looks as though light has something to do with it as butterflies, which overwhelmingly fly only by day, all have simple, straight antennae ending in a little club, like a match.

One other observation. We've had an odd combination of warm weather and wind which has divided the butterfly men from the boys. Most managed brief outings, including Peacocks, Commas and a Holly Blue which flits about our rambling wisteria, but the common-or-garden Whites really showed their mettle. They soared about, looking for all the world as though they enjoyed it when a gust swiped them sideways over the lawn. Just like children (of all ages) on a Disney ride. I photographed this one having a break, so now I've got my 2010 picture of a Small White here, as well as the ones at Boroughbridge a couple of posts down.

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