Friday, 21 October 2011

Frosty reception

We've had the first frost of autumn and guess how many moths there were in the trap? 'None' was Penny's first stab, followed by 'Three?' The answer lies between. There was just one, this demure little Yellow-line Quaker which had a dozen or more eggboxes all to itself. It reminded me of an episode long ago when I decided to take a late autumn break and found myself the only person on a package tour of Iceland.

For all its modesty, reflected in its name, the Yellow-line Quaker is an interesting moth. Apart from over-wintering as an egg on a tree branch, which I've mentioned before, it follows a very gruelling way of life in its earlier stages. When fully-sized, the caterpillar drops from on high into ground foliage like a parachutist whose equipment has failed. I wonder how many die of their injuries. Survivors then dig a small hole, no easy task for a caterpillar, lie in it for several weeks after covering themselves with a mantle of earth or brush, and only then pupate.

They miss the British summer, such as it is, and emerge just as the weather is getting dodgy, to fly until November and lay their eggs for the whole arduous cycle to start again. What is the reason and purpose behind all this? Scientists will have very little idea, I suspect. So much knowledge remains to be revealed.

This particular moth may have another minor distinction which I will reveal tomorrow, if it proves to be the case.

No comments: