Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The present is orange

An interesting moth arrived today, in some numbers (the four shown here are all different). The Orange Swift is one of a small UK family of 'primitive' macro moths whose relatively unsophisticated make-up really has more in common with micro moths. We have five out of some 500 worldwide.

Their size is another matter; considering that one of them is the Ghost moth which is large even by macro standards, they would look bizarrely out of place among the tiny scraps and thumbnails collected in the Micro Moth Bible. I've just thoroughly enjoyed Penelope Fitzgerald's novel Innocence which has a relevance to giants among pygmies, but I'm not going to spoil her plot by saying more.

To me, the Swift moths are particularly interesting as another example (I've mentioned Emperor moths in the same context) of the power of the reproductive process even when this seems to have little point other than itself - breeding simply to breed, the species surviving just for its own sake. I know that this is an entirely human take on the whole glorious system of the natural world, but I can't help hoping that one day an Orange Swift may develop a proboscis - they don't even have those so the adult moth cannot feed and doesn't live long. Or that they find some way of accelerating the caterpillar and chrysalis stage of their life cycle which, most unusually among UK moths, takes two whole years.

Still, perhaps they have deep thoughts which we cannot fathom, and they certainly look handsome. These are all males which are brighter and more beautiful than the females of the species; again, an interesting contrast to our own way of carrying on. I'll conclude with a gender-neutral picture of our current congregation of Lords and Ladies, a plant which I particularly like. In its name at least, finery and bright colours are shared.

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