Saturday, May 27, 2006
I write a monthly article for our village magazine. Having been made cosmic by an encounter with Emperor Moths, I wrote this piece.
"Oh my beloveds!" If there's anything in metampsychosis, ie the transmigration of souls, I want to come back as El Mahdi, the Sudanese prophet as played by Laurence Olivier in the film "Khartoum", mainly so that I can address a million loyal followers as "my beloveds".
But I do not want to come back as an Emperor Moth.
Don't get me wrong. An Emperor Moth is in every way prettier than The Mahdi. But, to paraphrase Thomas Hobbes, an Emperor Moth's life is "nasty brutish and short". Well, for a brief while - about two hours to be exact - his life is ecstatic, and then the poor sod dies. What he does is wait for a female to hatch and start wafting her pheremones on the ether. He then homes in on her, jumps her bones and remains, erm, conjoined for about two hours, and then flies off exhausted to die in some quiet corner, no doubt with a smile on his face and an excruciating pain in the lower back. It doesn't seem much of a deal to me.
After his departure, the female lays her eggs and then within a short time also shuffles off her mortal coil. They don't even have mouth parts, they don't eat. Forget afterglow. It is a very mechanical business.
Mind you, they are devastatingly beautiful, these Emperor Moths, and for two hours they have it made. I suppose if you translate the timespan into human terms, they are coupled for the equivalent of about twenty years before breaking off and kicking the lepidopteran bucket.
Maybe it isn't so nasty brutish and short after all.
I am grateful to David Hopkins of Witcham for providing me with a female in a cage so that I could lure two males into my garden (it took two hours) and add Emperor Moth to the Haddenham list. If the foregoing is not "well I never!" enough for you, David calculated that the pheremone scent must be detectable from at least fifteen miles away. Wow. Talking of moths, as the weather improves, so do the names of the moths: Willow Beauty, Purple Thorn, Chocolate Tip, Red Chestnut, Brindled Pug, Spectacle, Silver Y, Lime Hawkmoth..... If anyone would like to attend a moth-trapping session this summer, get in touch with me. It's an intriguing business.
I don't know about you, but I am not keen on being dead. And what a lot of dead there is on our highways and byways. Rabbits, pheasants, hedgehogs and other assorted fauna. Still, nothing is wasted. The Crows and Magpies are the scavengers par excellence, so from their point of view, dead is good news. What I can't cope with is lingering death. On Long Drove the other day, my attention was drawn to an ailing Swan. I called the RSPCA, who in what seemed like a few minutes were there rescuing the poor thing. If you need that splendid organisation, the number to call is 0870 5555999. There was also a dead swan, which in these days of poultry flu (I refuse to call it "avian flu") can be something serious. Equally the DEFRA people were out in no time. The number if you need it is 07889 341671.
I love the bums of bumblebees. Their rear ends are white, yellow or red - and maybe some other colours I haven't registered yet. I bet St Augustine had them in mind when he decided to find ways to prove the existence of God. I hope someone will confirm or refute this, but I am told that if any of these beasties sting you, eg bees wasps and hornets, you can be sure that it's the female that does the business, the theory being that the sting is a modified ovipositor, which, by definition, only the females have. I think this helps to explain a lot of the problems I have had in my life.