Sunday, 14 May 2017

Purring with joy

Some very good and longstanding friends from the United States have been with us this weekend and I was very much hoping that the moth trap - in which they have taken a benevolent interest from afar - would come up trumps.

It did, with this beautiful Puss Moth, a triumph of beauty and cunning camouflage which uses the 'op-art' effect made famous by the artist Bridget Riley and the sort of ties I wore when I was a teenager. It also boasts a mane of fine fur which gives the species its name.

Not uncommon, the moth is nonetheless a joy to have in the trap because of its loveliness and size (compare with visiting American's slender finger), and because of the hope that it may be a female and leave me some eggs. I am keeping it overnight in a cosy box full of its foodplant, willow, in the hope that this may happen. Fingers crossed.

Picture courtesy of

The reason is, that Puss moth caterpillars are most extraordinary, with a fierce and frightening cartoon 'face' and unique whip appendages on the tail, handy for flicking off ichneumon wasps which try to inject caterpillars with their eggs which hatch internally and eat their host alive. Nature, eh!  I will check in the morning and let you know.

The Puss moth gave its name to a De Havilland aircraft, a big sister to the more famous Tiger Moth and Gypsy Moth aircraft. In the same way, another arrival last night, the finely-coloured Cinnabar, inspired a narrowboat owner here on the Oxford Canal with a name for his floating home.

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