Monday, 4 June 2018

The Hop Dog

The Pale Tussock is such a regular visitor here that I had fallen into the trap of taking it for granted. That changed yesterday when Penny and I spent part of the afternoon at a lovely garden in the village of Drayton near Abingdon, which was open under the ever-excellent National Gardens Scheme.

As we pottered through a wooded part of the beautiful four acres on show, I spotted the unmistakeable triangular shape of a large moth. She was lying on the ground, possibly lifeless, so  I followed my granddaughter's practice and gently slid my finger under her head.

Not having such delicate fingers, this led to her turning turtle and proving that she was far from an ex-moth by waking up. I persisted and she did me the favour of flapping open her beautiful white-and-creamy wings. Previously, I have only ever seen Tussocks in their rest pose, the afore-mentioned triangle, often with theirhairy-breeched forelegs thrust forward as with an obediently waiting dog.

My interest was aroused because previous Pale Tussocks visiting my trap have all been the smaller and darker (but still impressive) males. This one was at least one-and-a-half times bigger and much paler; a ghost of a moth in the woodland shade.

The Pale Tussock has an interesting history, especially in connection with hops which are its favourite food. It is known traditionally among hop-pickers as the 'Hop Dog' and there is some excellent information about that on this hoppity website here.  That in turn has a link to some great photographs on another blog of the caterpillars, particularly fine creatures which were popular with hop-pickers in spite of their depradations on the crop.  They are even included on this hop-themed fabric, if you fancy the idea of caterpillars on your cushion covers or curtains.

Separately, Penny has found this fascinating example of ants' mighty labours which go on all around us, largely ignored. It is built up around this small plant growing from the pointing on top of a stone wall, from which the ant-builders have extracted an astonishing amount of soil and detritus to make their great tower.

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