Tuesday, 23 May 2017

On a dark day, a reminder of loveliness

It is impossible to be light-hearted so soon after the terrible terrorist attack in Manchester, but I agree very much with the city's Mayor, Andy Burnham, that it is important to show the deluded perpetrators of such atrocities that they will not affect our way of life, divide us or scare us. There is also some consolation in the fact that one of the UK's most beautiful insects visited me overnight and that I can show it as a reminder of the lovely things in the world: the Elephant Hawk Moth.

I have mentioned before, more than once, how the kindly curator of natural history at Leeds Museum, John Armitage, steered my brother and I to likely places for finding this moth's almost equally striking caterpillars - grey and 'eye' -ed in a way that accounts for the species' name. We duly discovered them in rosebay willowherb clumps beside the city's ring road, feeding in the shade on the lowest leaves, just as he had predicted.

The moth is common although, like most moths, seldom seen by those without a light trap. I always hope that one will come when we have children about. The grandchildren may be coming at the weekend, so here's hoping that the lovely weather holds and another Elephant comes to call.

It is a matter of bitter regret that the children killed in Manchester will not now enjoy such discoveries and spectacles from the natural world. But there is much more good in the world than evil and it needs to be celebrated and cherished. As Martin Luther King said, darkness cannot drive out the dark. That is lightness's job.

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