Monday, 11 September 2017

In an English country garden

Although only three-and-a-half, my daughter-in-law has a great fondness for insects of all kinds, not simply the obviously pretty ones such as butterflies or lady birds. She has a soft spot for woodlice, those curious little mini-armadillos which almost always scuttle away when you lift a stone or log, and there is nothing of Miss Muffet about her. She much admires spiders and never hesitates to pick them up - very carefully, and with a care which is directed at their welfare rather than hers.

She was interested rather than concerned, therefore, when we found this classically 'Nature red-in-tooth-and-claw' scene in her small but plant and wildlife-rich garden in London. You can't but feel sorry for the bee, but the apparatus constructed by a spider to survive is indeed an extraordinary and admirable thing.

Miss Muffet, incidentally, was almost certainly based on the daughter of Thomas Muffet, one of the first great English cataloguers of moths, butterflies and other insects. His book The Theatre of Insects (1559) was largely the compilation of other people's work and is impressively thorough, even though among the cast of butterflies, moths and of course spiders (on whose medical uses he wrote extensively) there appears a seahorse.

For the rest, glum weather has reduced my moth numbers but here is a nice Burnished Brass of the standard form aurea where the brassy bands are separated by the central brown one. The other form, juncta, has a join between the shiny columns thus forming an H-shape, and is commoner here and has regularly been featured because I cannot resist pretty moths, however common.

Finally, my solitary surviving Poplar Hawk Moth caterpillar seems to be trucking along, although still rather small. I live in nervous hope.

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