Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Drinkers do go on for ever

I have always had a soft spot for this curious-looking character, which made its debut for 2015 in the trap on Sunday night. It is a Drinker moth, named not because it resembles a lover-of-the-bottle nose-diving on to the pavement outside a pub, but bcause its caterpillars venture up grass stems to imbibe the dew.

This made them dear to me as a schoolboy as they were easy to find - big handsome creatures with a velvety coat of blue, dotted with red and gold as if they were soldiers in the Blues and Royals. They were the first 'interesting' caterpillars which I kept and bred successfully into adult moths; real aristocrats after the everyday 'Cabbage' White and Small Tortoiseshell catties which had previously been my subjects.

The Drinker is part of the Eggar family of UK moths, large, brown and in some cases given to interesting practices such as laying their eggs in flight, dropping the tiny things like bombs. This marked contrast to most moths' careful selection of the right foodplants for egg-laying perhaps works because their caterpillars are happy on grass, heather, brambles and other widespread plants. 

I've included the third picture, with apologies for the blurring caused by its preparations for take-off, because the colouring is closer to the real thing. My ongoing struggles with my Panasonic Lumix have yet to overcome colour variations depending on the light- or darkness of the background.

The moths continue to be very abundant and it's always good to have whoppers such as the Privet Hawk shown above. Especially when they come in pairs - see below. Finally, can any literary sleuth track down the inspiration to today's headline?  Answer tomorrow.

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