Friday, 17 September 2010

Powerful women

The namers of moths couldn't make up their minds with this little chap: the Red-green Carpet. He looks much more green than red to me, but it is the red marbling which distinguishes him from several other small, greenish, autumnal moths. I should say 'she', because this species survives the winter via the females hibernating. Males seldom make it through the cold. One of the incidental benefits of studying moths, or indeed wildlife in general, is discovering facts like this and considering whether they can be applied to Homo sapiens, either seriously or to make a debating or literary point. I very much recommend The Guinness Book of Animal Records in this respect.

I've taken three pictures of the same Carpet snoozing on the trap's plastic cowl, even though it's a very small moth, little bigger than my thumbnail. Moth wings are extremely slender and fragile, yet look how entirely different the colouring is on the top and underwings. It reminds me of painting Airfix planes - Spitfires with their green and brown mottling on top and sky-blue beneath and Lancaster bombers with the same mottling, but the underside black like the darkness through which they flew. The comparison is apt, because camouflage is the reason in both cases. A propos of very little, I have always been grateful to Airfix's Walrus aircraft kit and Humbrol enamel paint for introducing me to that lovely colour, and name: Duck-egg blue.

The last picture shows the Carpet from the side, characteristically resting with its tail pointed up. This habit is common in a number of small moths but I have yet to find an explanation for it. Without being smutty, sexual attraction seems an obvious contender. On the other hand, exposing that sensitive part of the body to the autumn cold - and it must have been very close to freezing last night - may explain why males fail to make it through the winter.


worm said...

unusual - I have to say I've never noticed a moth resting with it's nethers in the air!! Something I shall be looking out for from now on

(If I could find any moths! Lately the only moth related thing I've seen was a lime hawk moth caterpillar on an oak tree on our street. I'm not really a global warmist, but I am beginning to worry about the disappearance of our butterflies and moths)

MartinWainwright said...

Lucky you, finding a hawk moth caterpillar! That's one more than 99.999 percent of people in the UK ever see. Don't worry about the butterfleis and moths. Sunshine (which we really do lack) brings out the former. The latter are seldom seen anyway, except by those in possession of a Robinson trap. Historic descriptions of vast numbers of butterflies in the UK owe much to rose-tinted specs. Have a lovely w/e and same to all Dabblers. M.