Saturday, 2 June 2012

Hawk eye

The year's first hawk moth has arrived and it's a strange one. A Poplar Hawk, which I've had every year and always love seeing for their sinister appearance, curious way of holding their wings at rest and very substantial size. But so tattered! What can it have been doing during its, presumably, short life so far?

Look at the fenestration on those wings; like the effects of osteoporosis on the bones of the women who filled their half of Henry Ward in Bart's hospital 34 years ago when I was one of the motorbike casualties (and young skateboarders) in the male half. The damage doesn't look like the consequences of an encounter with a bird, a bramble or violent weather. This has the appearance of a much older moth.

Do they hibernate? my moth Bible is silent on the subject and Googled references all refer to the species over-wintering as a chrysalis or pupa. The adult insect, the most common of the UK's 18 hawk moths, also has a short and non-functioning proboscis because it does not feed - almost obese though its body is by the standard of other moths here. How long can a non-feeding creature live?

In my attempts to be quasi-scientific, I have just looked back at my previous posts and found that the first visits of a Poplar Hawk to my trap were as follows: 2008: 11 June (the first day I ever trapped)  2009: 31 May  2010: 26 May and 2011: 26 May again.  Last year's entry is interesting as I noted (which I had quite forgotten): "Judging by its tatterdemalion state, it has been around for a while."

Maybe their large size - easily the biggest of the regular moths here in Leeds - means they cannot avoid blundering into things.


sarah meredith said...

Hi Martin - what a wonderful photo! It looks like the wicked witch of the west! Back home now and up at the farm this coming weekend - maybe there will be some moth sightings! xx to you and P

MartinWainwright said...

Hi there! How nice to see your name pop up. I'm very conscious that we owe you an email. We'll ping off a Royal one today. X to all, M & P

PS Yep, doesn't the Poplar Hawk look sinister, wicked-westish and all. Mind you, they are lambs in the trap and never try to lumber off as I hide them deep under rhododendrons to elude the birds. x