Saturday, 3 September 2016


I am very pleased to have discovered another literary outing for woodlice, in Francesca Kaye's novel The Translation of the Bones. I won't spoil it for you but it is more lengthy and interesting than their cameo in Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Mrs Tittlemouse, even if unlikely to supercede that in fame.

I haven't got a woodlouse to show you this morning - although I could find hundreds within minutes, both under stones in the garden and in cracks in the masonry of our house. But the creature in my first picture got me thinking about them, because it is so peculiar.

My younger son found it on his shin while hiking in the Picos de Europa, magnificent mountains in northern Spain. At first, he thought that it was a scrap of dead grass, as I did when I saw the photo. In fact it is a youngish stick insect. Like most British children, he is well familiar with these from primary school. One of the poignant moments of our sons' childhood was being in a Bradford petshop at the same time as another child, who had been entrusted with his class's stick insects for the holidays and had let them escape. He and his mother were trying to buy lookalikes.

And so to moths, and I think that you will see the reason for the link: extreme spindliness. This is one of the T-shaped UK 'plume' micros but I cannot be considered to be a trustworthy guide as to which. Past experience and the very tightly furled wings lead me to suggest the Common Plume which has the unusually pleasant and comprehensible Linnaean name of Emmelina monodactyla (single-winged Emmeline). But I will leave it at that, except for a final, handsome moth.

This came on Thursday night: a Feathered Gothic, tucked among the hordes of drably familiar Large Yellow Underwings and Setaceous Hebrew Characters which currently have mass bookings of my eggbox cones. I had to tap it out which made it jittery and it flew-flopped on to the lawn. But after it had calmed down, I enticed it on to a finger and then the moth trap cowl, and here it is again, below, showing off the glorious antennae which identify it as a male.

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