Monday, 27 July 2015

Hooray for Cinnabars, and Ragwort

A blitz on the veg patch today was rewarded by the discovery of several Cinnabar caterpillars, one of the reliable highlights of the moth enthusiast's year. I love this moth - red and greeny-black when an adult - here are a couple of pics, below - and yellow and black in tigerish stripes when a caterpillar.

The warning colouration is striking and, as you can see in the closer-up of the pics, it comes with an additional arsenal of spiky hairs. The caterpillar is also poisonous to birds. Interesting that we humans have chosen yellow and black as our warning sign for anything hazardous in the nuclear field.

These caterpillars were on groundsel, which we spared. Their favourite plant is ragwort which is, most unfairly, the target of ill-informed alarmists. A beautiful plant whose vivid yellow cheers up waste ground and neglected fields, it needs as many advocates and friends as possible.

The original cinnabar is a red gemstone which, when crushed, provides the pigment for vermillion paint. We have nice friends and neighbours here who have a narrowboat called Cinnabar on the Oxford Canal.  Here she is.


Neil Jones said...

Oh yes there are some dreadful alarmists around. This is one example. The person quoted has been very very influential in panicking people.

Martin Wainwright said...

Hi and thanks very much for that link - very instructive and I recommend it to anyone else who happens this way. One thing that struck me was the reference to the Pof being widely quoted in the media. Since the media is something on which I can speak with considerable experience - unlike my attempts at ID-ing moths...- this is the point which concerns me most. Nightmare plants are an absolute staple for the media; they make excellent stories. All good fun except when too many of them influences public opinion against the plants in question. So fight the good fight for ragwort, everyone! Especially knowledgable horse-owners who in my experience do not automatically join the anti side. Luckily, it's a pretty tough customer itself, like the equally excellent Rosebay Willowherb. All warm wishes M