The moths paid my grandchildren a nice compliment today. When Emily came into our bedroom with her usual request: "Can I put a moth on my finger, Grandpa?", I was able to oblige big-time.
Big is the word with the Privet Hawk Moth which was slumbering in the eggboxes. This is the biggest moth most of us are likely to see in the UK. I have been lucky enough to encounter the only two which are larger: the Convolvulus Hawk at a wedding in Cornwall and the astonishing Death's Head Hawk thanks to friends in an neighbouring village who found and hatched three pupae they found their spud patch. But that was really was good luck in both cases. I hope the same happens to you, but the odds are not good.
The Privet Hawk is eminently satisfactory, however. Like the deer which abound in the UK and yet remain mostly out of sight, it surprises me that such a big creature can generally pass un-noticed. Its size and scratchy legs initially caused the granddaughter some dismay. But soon she was happily providing the moth with a perch, along with her favourite White Ermines and a Burnished Brass.
After a prolonged finger-moth session, we went for an expedition along the canal - and got a surprise when we hunted out the children"s lifejackets which had not been used since the end of last summer. We hope the parents will not desert but there's a limit to how far we can cope with odd nesting habits. The last one we found, a fortnight ago, was in our watering can.
While we were out, I left the Privet Hawk in the moth trap with a towel over the opening, after alerting a family from Oxford whose school-age daughters are both enthusiastic and learned about natural history. When we got back, the trap appeared undisturbed bu the Privet Hawk was no longer inside. I presumed that it had been burly enough to force its way out as the towel was simply draped and not secured. We then had to go out again and I kept my fingers crossed that the girls would not come and be disappointed.
When we got back, there was an email from their Dad. Oh dear, I thought. But instead, he said that
they had been in the morning - while we were on the canal - and enjoyed an excellent meeting with the Privet Hawk which none of them had seen previously. The moths were getting a bit warm, he said, and so they placed the Privet Hawk on our garden trellis nearby. And here it still is, at 7.15pm. Probably too big for a bird to tackle but also a still as a statue which is the way to evade birds' eyes.
The family had a good explore of the local fields and woods while they were here and - a propos my comments above - took this really lovely picture of a deer:
There are too many moths every night at the moment for me to keep pace, but here are my best, though incomplete, efforts regarding some of them. I conclude with another favourite, simply because of its vivid colours, the Cinnabar. Long live ragwort (its food plant), say I!
|Clockwise from top left: Red Twin-spot Carpet, Straw Dot, micro, treble Brown-spot, Common Marbled Carpet, Oak Tree Pug|
|By row from top left: Udea lutealis micro, Myelois circumvoluta (Thistle Ermine) micro, Dark Spectacle, Marbled minor, .Not sure yet, Bright-line Brown-eye, micro, Marbled Minor, Marbled Minor (dark form)|