Monday, 27 June 2011

Hamlet, 'tis thy father's ghost

I was going to tell you about a fascinating fly on our bedroom window last night, but this handsome creature appeared in the trap this morning and scooped my plan. It's a Ghost moth, well-named for obvious reasons, although the females have a different, buttery-streaked-with-orange livery. Actually they look like those novelty Wensleydale cheeses dotted with odd fruits which they make now at the 'Wallace and Gromit' creamery in Hawes.

The male here is more of a slice of camembert, although his underside is quite different. My specimen was very sleepy and so quite co-operative. I'm sorry not to have got the focus dead-on, but here he is from below; a sort of mushroom grey.

The Ghost adds a distinctive word to the vocabulary of moths: lekking. This is the term used for the male's distinctive habit of fluttering over one spot with a pendulum-like action, sometimes in numbers, while releasing a powerful pheromone scent. Powerful is the word because although it smells like goat, the effect on females is so overwhelming that they sometimes fly straight at the male and both tumble to the ground. There they get on with it, according to my moth Bible from which I am taking all this on trust. It adds, "mating pairs are conspicuous on low vegetation by torchlight."

This reminds me of footnotes in my school Shakespeare by an American academic called Kitteridge whose ability to detect naughty meanings in the text knew no bounds. He enlivened many a dull lesson and I hope he still appears in the editions they use today. I'll just end with a moth-in-motion pic - sorry, inevitably blurred again, but I wanted to see if the hindwings were white too and I had such a co-operative moth. They are.


worm said...

wow what a beautiful moth! certainly one I've never seen before - in the first photo the moth's front end looks remarkably like a cockchafer to my eyes, perhaps it's just the leg colour

MartinWainwright said...

Hail Worm!

Yes, it's such a treat to find something in the trap which isn't small and brown.

Actually that's a bit unfair. But it shows why am an amateur not a pro. Pros would count every last Hebrew Character in the eggboxes...

Warm wishes,