Monday, 7 December 2015

Feminists! There is work to be done in the world of moths

The moth trap had its first December outing last night, courtesy of six-year-old Cassie who came to see us with her Mum and Dad and a friend. She pressed the switch after we decided that a mild, dry night was in prospect and that there was at least a chance of luring something to the lamp.

Hey presto!  A very nice moth was dozing on the transparent shield this morning - a Mottled Umber, whose curious gender arrangements may inspire Cassie in due course to take the fight for genuine equality between men and women a stage further. Why? Because the fate of the female Mottled Umber is a sorry example of what can happen when things go the other way.

I don't suppose that it means much to moths and I don't hold what I believe are called Lamarckian views about animals being able to adapt evolution to their own ends. but my second photo is a sorry spectacle for us humans, isn't it? The male has no fewer than four different, handsome outfits. The female resembles a run-of-the-mill spider.

Lassie and her pal Timmy
The reason, if I understand it correctly, is that she is little more than an egg-laying machine, spending her life on tree trunks while emitting a pheromone which diverts the males away from their exciting life swooping around in the dark. (Actually, to be consistent in my evolutionary views, 'exciting' is probably a meaningless word for a moth, whose entire life system is devoted to avoiding bats and birds and finding a female with whom to breed. Still, my one wish of life which is almost certain to be unfulfilled, is that I might develop the ability to fly. On which score, check out a very good book, if you can find it, called The Flying Yorkshireman by Eric Knight, the creator of the screen dog Lassie whose promising career was cut short when he died in an air crash in 1943.

To return to this blog's supposed subject, the other moth in the trap was also a handsome specimen, the Red-green Carpet shown in my fourth picture, above. This brings happier news for Cassie and the women of the world: its life cycle in the UK  depends on surviving the winter as an adult, but only the females can do this. The males aren't tough enough.

All in all, a happy outcome to our decision to turn on the lamp - and Cassie has taken one of my Emperor Moth cocoons back to London. Let's hope we have news of a successful hatching in March or April.


Iain chambers said...

The red green carpet is a beauty! Cassie was very pleased to initiate some December mothing, and the cocoon now has its own room, having become a townie and moved to London. For which, many thanks again

MartinWainwright said...

Hooray - it was an excellent visit and it'll be interesting to see whether Timmy Town-Cocoon or Johnny Country-Cocoon (or Tabitha and Jemima, who knows) emerges first. See you again soon M & P