Sunday, 12 October 2014

Ford perfect

I have been re-reading the best books yet written on (a) butterflies and (b) moths, both by the same expert author, the late Professor Edmund Ford. I'd advise reading them in that order - Butterflies first then Moths - because Butterflies is easier going and also lays the groundwork for some complicated discussion of genetics in Moths which I still have to read several times to begin to understand.

Don't let that put you off, however. I once had lunch with the prof at the Travellers' Club in London and he was a wonderfully twinkly old bachelor about whom many stories are told. Some of these involved allegations of fairly extreme hostility to women outside their once traditional place in the nursery and kitchen (eg not at home in his much-loved Oxford University), but I suspect that quite a lot of teasing was involved. At all events, many of the people he thanks most warmly in his foreword to Moths are women.

He also has a very nice line in quips as you can see from the extracts above, on matricidal larvae, and below, on caterpillars which require sunshine to flourish (don't we all?)

I got Moths down from the shelves in one of my occasional attempts to find out what experts think about the way that light traps work - do they really 'attract', or is it a matter of the insects' delicate radar and antennae being dazzled and disrupted. Ford proposes a theory of two circles of light - if I understand him correctly - an outer one which does draw in the moths and then an inner one which disrupts them and sees them end up, effectively out of control, spiralling into the trap. This was published back in the 1960s mind, so I have plenty more researching to do (and trying to understand the research, with my feeble Grade 9 failure in physics-with-chemistry O Level, also in the 1960s).

On the subject of light, here's the scene in the garden yesterday afternoon. I can't pass a rainbow without trying to photograph it. The pot of gold was just behind our solitary but quite impressive pumpkin, though I haven't tried to dig it up yet - the pot, I mean. As for the pumpkin, roll on Hallowe'en.

Oh, and we'd better have a moth. I was intrigued by this battered Black Rustic and attempted a close-up of its wing stripped of scales - like a roof after a tornado, though in this case it was probably a bird that did the damage.


Katie (Nature ID) said...

I'm glad for the book recommendations. I'm not surprised about the attitude towards women. And, I empathize with you about trying to understand the research.

Martin Wainwright said...

Hi Katie!

Hope you find them handy if you do get hold of them. They're quite challenging but full of insight and experience

All warm wishes as ever