Sunday, 2 October 2011

What shall we do with the drunken sailor?

"I know...hic..there'sh only one needle really..."

The link between butterflies, moths and drink is well-established and known to many a child who has enjoyed rum-and-treacling, especially the rum. Here is more proof: a distinctly woozy Red Admiral which is currently spending all day at a bar we have created in the garden by chance.

What happened was this: we've been cleaning out the cellar and in the process found a small stash of those strange liqueurs which you buy abroad at the end of a holiday in moments of madness. Some dated back to the 1980s and had gone even more peculiar in colour and viscosity than they were in the first place.

So we poured them away at last, the only alternative being to get very drunk in a not very nice way. Several days later, we both noticed this Red Admiral had become inseparable from a small patch of ground near our kitchen door.

Here it is; and because we fairly recently scattered some home-made compost - almost as disgusting as the ancient liqueurs - I assumed that it was enjoying that. Butterflies' and moths' debased diets when it comes to faecal matter or rotting anything are also well-known.

But then Penny remembered the drinkfest; and sure enough, here is the Red Admiral's tongue Hoovering up the residue of Myrtle Brandy or Watermelon Vodka or whatever it was. And the sugars, which will have been copious. Psychologically, the results have been to make it completely fearless and almost tame. Ah the delusions brought upon us all by drink.


sarah meredith said...

Hi Martin, this may be indelicate, but I am so happy to read of the nasty food choices of moths and butterflies. I was afraid that it was something about the moths on our property upstate that made them particularly drawn to doggie's droppings! Meantime, Greg and I are on vacation on Martha's Vineyard - October is the perfect post-season time here - and we just got back from a long bike ride through the dunes where we saw numerous lovely flying things - birds, butterflies and probably moths! Love to both,
s and g

Banished To A Pompous Land said...

I always found the best way to get a nice cooperative subject with Admirals and Peacocks was to wait until late in the season when the windfall fruit was nicely fermented. My old work place in Gloucester had several groups of fruit trees, apples, pears and plums that were never harvested and were so out of the way they were never disturbed. It used to smell like a distillery out there come late September and the feeding butterflies were out of their skulls.. which they clearly don't have but you get my point.

Weather looks warmer with you right now. Its 65f here all of a sudden.

MartinWainwright said...

Hi both!

What interesting messages - v many thanks. Sorry for delay in replying but P and I have been away this week. Evidence will be on the blog before long.

It's great to compile examples of these wildlife habits and gradually build up a picture of what goes on. I never trust any suggestion that a moth or butterfly is extinct in the UK because there just aren't that many people out looking for them.

I've seen the droppings phenomenon, Sarah, yuccky indeed; and Banished, I remember as a boy in Herefordshire watching wasps have cider parties on fallen apples which made them so tipsey that I slaughtered many, in revenge for childhood stings.

Back in Leeds now and the weather has remembered that it's autumn; loads of rain and leaves everywhere.

All warmest wishes; closedown approaches...