The most boring thing to do in lockdown?

The poplar hawk moth doesn't eat at all in its life time

What do you think about moths? Normally we don’t like them, they get into our wardrobes and their larvae can eat our clothes. We do not want them in our house. If you put ‘moths’ up on the internet you are likely to see information about getting rid of them.

We have bought a moth trap. Not to hurt the moths or get rid of them but to see how many we have outside. ‘That is the ultimate in boring things to do in lockdown,’ you must be thinking. Surely, there is something more interesting? Well, I have found out that moths are fascinating and delightful.

The trap has a light that attracts the night-flying moths, it does not kill the creatures. They are funnelled harmlessly into a chamber below. In the morning we can examine our visitors before releasing them. We identified about ten different large moths and lots of other small ones. Also, there was a cockchafer or May bug in the trap.

The May bug obviously flies in June as well as May and looks like a big beetle, about three centimetres long. It won’t harm humans but it certainly looks fierce and I was not too sorry to let it go.

There were a variety of moths of all shapes and sizes. They had lots of colours too just like butterflies; some were white with black dots, and there were yellow, cream and red ones. The biggest was a poplar hawk moth, it was twice as big as the May bug. Its wings with russet patches look as if they are brown paper cut-outs done by Henri Matisse.

This hawk moth is not a rarity, though most of us will not have seen one. Interestingly, it does not eat poplar tree leaves, in fact, it does not eat at all in its short life.

Later in the day, on a mullein plant, we saw some huge caterpillars. The mullein moth must have been flying one night and found our mullein plant to lay her eggs on. The eggs hatched and the caterpillars grew big with yellow and orange stripes. They will eat all the leaves before disappearing into the soil to pupate.

I am still in isolation but yesterday I had to go for a routine blood test. I say ‘routine’ but there was nothing usual about this procedure compared to previous times before coronavirus. The nurse was in full PPE and I also protected myself with a face covering and gloves. We stared at each other over our masks and I was the only patient. The surgery was strangely empty, unlike the packed room I remember.

I did see some crowds though when I drove home. People were in their cars queueing for the ever-popular takeaway food. We do not seem to have been put off these, even after all this time, they still have a great attraction. How hungry we are to get back to normal.

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)

The ermine moth waiting to lay its eggs

The caterpillar of the mullein moth


 

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