Saturday, 20 September 2014

Moth balls

I promised a tribute to the Scottish referendum yesterday and here it is. Don't be disappointed if you were attracted here by the headline, though. That subject comes up shortly.

First, however, is an appropriate picture which I have entitled 'Union'. The trap on the momentous morning of the result was unusually dominated by Daddy Longlegses or Crane Flies and, as you can see, two of them were doing their best to ensure that this fertile situation happens in future.

The referendum has dominated media discourse in the whole of the UK lately and one imagines that in Scotland they have thought and talked of nothing else. As usual, one imagines wrong. In my search online for something about Scottish moths, I discovered this comment in the Yahoo forum for enthusiasts north of the Border:

The lifestyle of a true migrant is rather specialised. Often the gonads are undeveloped when the moth emerges, to save weight on the journey.

This came in a fascinating discussion about the enormous distances travelled by the little objects of our enthusiasm, and it provoked the unsurprising reaction from another forum member: 

Thanks for that! Though, I hadn't realised moth gonads were that heavy
This makes me every bit as happy as yesterday's result. Edinburgh's ancient reputation as the 'Athens of the North' is evidently alive, well and shared among Scotland's many excellent moth specialists.

If I had to name a favourite Scottish moth it would have to be the Rannoch Sprawler, an insect which I imagine draped contentedly in a leather club armchair in a kilt with a pipe, yarning about great battles with salmon or deer in the Highlands. Like Scottish independence, I have yet to see it but wonder if I will one day. The picture of the moth's two varieties, left, was taken by John Knowler from this excellent website and I'm grateful for its use.

I say that because many commentors, not just Alex Salmond, are speculating that the progress of self-government in Scotland can only continue. The referendum defeat may therefore be less of a full stop than a comma.

Cue - budum-tish! - my final pictures: the first, a very nice one of a Comma butterfly taken in our garden last week by Australian friends who have a very fine camera. The second by me, of a the striking underside of another Comma which, most unusually for a butterfly, spent last night in the trap. And the third a close-up of the same which shows, perhaps encouragingly for Scot Nats, that things are not always as black as they seem.

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