Sunday, 15 July 2012

Poor Old Lady

When Charles Darwin was a boy, he decided only to study those insects which he found dead, rather than sallying forth with a net. He soon abandoned this gentle-hearted policy because he had so little research material. The natural world abounds with such skilled predators and scavengers that we humans seldom come across carrion of any kind.

I did yesterday, though, and it was rather a spectacular example. We were just about to head off for a lovely walk round Askwith as part of Penny's birthday celebrations, when we spotted this - on the road right outside our house. Most unluckily, it must have been hit by a car and presumably while day-flying, as we set off at around 11.45am.


It is an Old Lady moth, a species which has never come to the light in all my five years of trapping. I did find one once, with my cousin Tim Warin, when we were butterfly-hunting boys staying at the vicarage of our Uncle Tim in Suffolk. He and his wife Marion also had two elderly parishioners staying from their previous parish in Crawley, nick-named (to their faces) 'Baldy' and 'Nye', and there was some initial alarm when we burst in at dusk from our rum-and-treacle traps, shouting: "We've got an Old Lady!"

The reason for the excitement is less the colour and patterning, which accounts for the name in an era when old ladies did not wear purple, than the moth's impressive size. Apart from the hawkmoths, it is one of the UK's biggest. If you were wondering, the lustrous backdrop is our car's bonnet.  Here's another picture. RIP.

3 comments:

Stokelymort said...

If you wanted to increase circulation of your newspaper Martin, you could well catch the attention of the public on Monday morning with a front page headline that reads:
"Editor of the Guardian finds an Old Lady dead outside his house"
I always look forward to your light hearted, but informative Blog listings
Ray

Banished To A Pompous Land said...

On the subject of old ladies wearing purple the I share this

http://hootingyard.org/archives/4686

with those who aren't familiar.

MartinWainwright said...

Excellent idea, Ray - sorry for delay in coming back btw, it's been a bit busy with more conventional news. I'm v glad you enjoy the blog. I love rambling away and digital cameras have transformed the whole thing.

Thanks for the purple link, Banished. I remember first seeing that poem when it was on the London Tube.

All warm wishes,

M

(rain has just stopped, hooray!)