Friday, 3 September 2010

Tough old pal

How long do moths live? This question resembles the famous one about lengths of string. Most evidence suggests, however, that the adult insect counts its span in weeks, if not days. A moth is fragile and highly desirable to predators such as bats and birds. There are exceptions, however, and this benevolent-looking giant is one of them. It has something of an elephant about it, and something of a Hercules transporter plane. I was startled to find it in the trap: it's one of our local Poplar Hawk moths which must have hatched in June or even May. I hope that its return visit to the lamp did not endanger it. I hid it as carefully and inconspicuously as I could and left it to doze on.

When I Googled the question which starts this post, I found this entertaining comment on a Yahoo Q&A.  Not everyone likes moths, it has to be said... The questioner called Trixydaf in Australia had asked about lifespans. A helpful reader filled her in and added advice against keeping moths as pets. Here is her reply:

i deffinatly dont want to keep it as a pet but there are so many around sydney at the moment and i am hoping they will all die soon. thanks


Phil said...

Hi Martin, lovely moth. Isn't it interesting that so few moths hibernate as adults and so many overwinter as larvae of pupae? Apart from the herald, which must count as a Methuselah amongst moths, their adult life is very short.

Dean said...

Martin, Poplar Hawks are known to have 2 generations some years..

MartinWainwright said...

Hi both! Phil it certainly is interesting. I've sometimes wondered about taking an adult moth in for the winter, setting it up in some cosy nook, and checking in March or April whether it's made it through. I guess predators do for the ones outdoors. I'm always amazed that moths which overwinter as an egg; seems such a tiny object to withstand our cold and wet. very interesting about the Herald; I must do some homework.

Dean, that's interesting too. I've never had a hawk here though at this time of the year, and this one looked as though it had been around a bit. On the other hand, it has been lovely and warm (in the daytime anyway) for quite a while now. We have several rhododendrons in second flush, as well as clematis and wisteria.

Thanks as ever


worm said...

What an amazing moth! we used to find lots of these in late august in cornwall. With the rakish wings and grey colouring they seem quite like miniature pieces of military hardware, and also I suppose that the wonderfully broad head and strident antennae put me in mind of a samurai mask like this one: