Saturday, 30 April 2011

Ermine robes

Who can resist an email headed 'i saw a moth last night!', complete with that exclamation mark? One such pinged into my inbox yesterday during the pomp and circumstance at Westminster Abbey. It was from William Smith, the bright schoolboy mentioned in the immediately previous post below.

I can't better his words, so here they are: 'Last night when i was drawing my curtains, something suddenly burst into life and flew out and landed on my bedroom wall, i instantly noticed that it was a moth, but it was right at the top of the wall, so i got mum to catch it, and it was a white ermine!!! (we let it go!) p.s the royal wedding is good!! ;)'

There's a coincidence. Three years ago Penny and I called on cousins at Low Bentham on the Lancashire border and their teenage son came downstairs - with a White Ermine which had just emerged from his bedroom curtains.

They are lovely moths; and when I turned on the trap light last night, I thought: wouldn't it be excellent if one came, so that I could add its picture to a post about Will's find. Lo and behold... This morning brought not just a White Ermine but its relative the Buff Ermine, both in these pictures. After a day of amazing uniforms and dresses down in London, their House of Lords-style finery is timely on those grounds too.

I took care to hide them from the birds, incidentally, just as William carefully let his go. But I probably need not have bothered. Both moths' flamboyant ignoring of camouflage colours is thought to be connected, through natural selection, to the fact that they are poisonous. The bright white and cream, plus striking black dots and odd bits of orange on their bodies (which I'm afraid I haven't caught in these pictures), flag this up to tits, blackbirds and the rest.


Jason Ralls said...

Beautiful moth. I am going to have to get a moth trap, that is just too cool to be missing out on.

MartinWainwright said...

Hi Jason

I certainly recommend it. Traps can get pricey; the best I know are at the venerable firm of Watkins and Doncaster ( But if you're at all handy, it's not hard to make your own and I think there are quite a few tips online about that. Now I shall check out your blog.

All v best


Jason Ralls said...

Thanks for checking out my blog, and thanks for the advice! I've learned that apparently there are a great number of saturniid moth species native to where i live, so i will definitely be building my own trap soon.