Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Tickled pink


It's my birthday, hooray, and I always hope that a nice moth will come to mark the occasion. One has, this beautiful Elephant Hawk, a species which has a special place in my life. When I was 12, the marvellous natural history curator at Leeds Museum, John Armitage, encouraged me and my brother to look for Elephant Hawk caterpillars along the verges of Leeds ring road between Moortown and Adel one August.

It might have been a risky tip, knowing how disappointed children can be, but John knew his stuff and sure enough, we found half-a-dozen of the curious creatures, which resemble elephants' trunks with small eyes at one end. Hence the name for a moth which is elephantine in no other discernible way. They hatched and we saw this beautiful moth at its newly-emerged best. This one which came last night can't have left its pupa that long ago either. Lovely.

Hawk moths have stylishly raked wings, shown here (right) in what looks like a crashed stealth bomber or spacefighter from Star Wars' rebel alliance. I have seen Convolvulus Hawk moths flying round streetlamps in Italy; in fact when I was a teenager, villagers lent me a ladder to catch a few near Ancona. The moths are formidable flyers, as powerful and fast as bats.

6 comments:

worm said...

Happy birthday Martin! The elephant hawk was probably my moth baptism too, they were very common in Cornwall as Rosebay Willowherb is so prevalent down there. I'd love to see a Convolvulus Hawk, as they always featured in my books of british moths yet to see one in britain is pretty tricky (just like the death's head and the bedstraw)

Martin said...

Hi there W!

From Blackburn, town of youth - 25 percent of the population is under 15!

Yes, all hawk moths are in a league of their own, aren't they?

I hope I see a Death's Head one day though the Oleander is the one I really covet

all v best

M

ornithom said...

Happy birthday Martin!

And what a fabulous little present! I'm looking forward to Elephant Hawk gracing my garden again this year. It can't be long now...you've had one, Skev had one in Leics, even Stuart up in cold Northumbs has had one. Surely must be my turn next! Lol.

Kind regards

Steve T

worm said...

Ahh the oleander- my mothly dream too!

Bennyboymothman said...

Happy Birthday for yesterday! Nice present too! so far i've only seen Lime and Poplar so awaiting my first this year and i'm not sure where it will come from, as I don't have a garden to trap in anymore, boohoo!
Keep up the fantastic blog Martin.
Regards
Ben

Martin said...

Hi again all

Thanks very much too

I'm sitting on my elephant hawk laurels just for now because although the days are lovely, it's gone a bit chilly at night. The night before last, there were just two Hebrew Characters and five maybugs.

Sorry - specially to meticulous record-keepers like you Ben - this isn't a very scientific approach...

But when I retire

all v best

M