Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Seeing red

There are probably social disadvantages to being seen as a moth obsessive but a big plus is that kindly sympathisers send you news of their own discoveries in the field. And pictures too, of which this is a striking example, taken on a doorstep in Stafford.

The photograph is the work of Clare Collins, a fellow trustee of mine on the Quaker Service Memorial Trust who did brilliantly with her 'phone camera, including an excellent view of the moth's scarlet bloomers which it only shows as a deterrent scare when startled. The picture below is the best that I have managed, in August two years ago, when a nice big specimen visited the moth trap.

I do have a favourite view of the moth's underwings, however, taken in August 2009 on Penny's birthday, when she showed her amazing skills at daytime moth-spotting yet again. This Red Underwing was snoozing under a nicely matching pub umbrella at Radcot Bridge in Oxfordshire, getting away from the dazzling birthday sunshine.

Further to my excitement about the Convolvulus Hawk moth, spotted by Penny at the family wedding we were at near St Austell, I have been finding out more about the species, the second largest moth to be found in the UK. Two things in particular: Its chrysalis or pupae has an extraordinary 'jug' or 'teacup' shape, with a delicate handle enclosing the material which gradually becomes the moth's famously long proboscis. Check out the picture, left, from Project Noah's excellent website.And secondly, apparently if it is picked up, it can spike you with little spines on its legs. Luckily no one at the wedding was tempted to be so intimate.

This appears to be a good year for the Convolvulus Hawk in the UK. I sped post-haste to the website of the outstanding Upper Thames Moths blog to boast about my - admittedly far from the Thames - sighting, only to discover that Oxfordshire and Buchinghamshire have recorded one each in the last ten days.

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