Sunday, May 28, 2006

"That's why I'm always pheremoning"

The musical amongst you will recognise at once that the title of this post is the 5/4 version of the classic jazz piece, Moanin' . I once asked a jazz group to play something in 5/4 time, at which the leader turned to his group and said, too loudly for comfort: "Bloke here wants us to play "Life is just a Bowl of Fricking Cherries". A humbling moment.
The astute among you will immediately see the connection between this and the relict ancient woodlands in Cambridgeshire typified by Hayley Wood and Gamlingay Wood, where I spent some hours this afternoon in the company of David Hopkins, who wishes to remain anonymous.
Not there yet? OK, a clue:
There is an enterprising bloke in Holland who sells pots of moth pheremones.There is an enterprising bloke in Norfolk who buys these pots of moth pheremones from the enterprising bloke in Holland and then sells them on to blokes like David and me who are anxious to trap moths that cannot be trapped by more conventional methods (Skinner traps, wine ropes, etc). All you have to do is to rip the tights (pantyhose) off a passing acquaintance, wrap your pot in bits of pantyhose and hang the result on a tree in the right place. Easy peasy.
Getting there, right? Good.
Amongst the moths which do not respond to a bright light, but who get seriously aroused when a passing female wafts her scent over their throbbing antennae are the Clearwings. So, all you need to do is to buy a pot of pheremones from the bloke in Norfolk and your cup will runneth over with Clearwings, right? Wrong.
There are fifteen Clearwing species in this country, each with its own specialised habitat requirements. So you need fifteen different pheremones (not quite true, as some pheremones work on more than one species, but it makes for good dramatic effect to say you need fifteen different pheremones).
Not only that, but they each have specialised environments: some like orchards, some like birches, some like two-year-old oak stumps, and for all I know, some like reheated curry.
Today, we went for two species that are birch-loving: Large Red-belted Clearwing, recorded only thrice in Cambridgeshire; and White-barred Clearwing, not recorded so far in Cambridgeshire, but we were out for glory, my anonymous colleague and I.
And did we have a good time?!
Did we have a good time?
It was a lovely afternoon. And these two species are still around till end July. Wherever they are. Certainly not in the woods we visited. There's still time....

And that is why I am always pheremoning.

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