Saturday, 1 January 2011

First moths of the second decade

And now, happy New Year! And here on our window sill is one of a smattering of Winter Moths which must have been thoroughly confused by the celebration antics here last night. It was mild, if damp, and I turned on the trap after watching London's amazing fireworks on the telly. We'd already had our own rather more modest pyrotchnics plus some of those beautiful Chinese lanterns which sail off into the night while you keep your fingers crossed that they won't set fire to anything. One of our trees meanwhile has a couple of strings of outside lights in it; and finally the sitting room curtains were open, allowing much jollity and brightness to spill out into the night. What a collection of rival glares to confuse a moth...

This one (right) was perched on the actual window. Indoors, by good fortune, we had a learned guest, Tom Greenall, a young architect from London who turns out to be very well-informed on Winter Moths. Via BBC TV's excellent Springwatch, which has also been trapping, he knew that the frail little insects survive savage temperatures through a natural sort of anti-freeze in their blood. The chemical protects them from the effects of, for example, the minus 12C (10.4F) we had before Christmas, although it still takes them ages to generate enough heat to be able to fly. Their method is to exercise their wing muscles continuously until the temperature in the thorax, or central part of the body, is 30C (86F), allowing them to take wing.

Here for good measure is an infra-red image of a warmed-up Winter Moth, courtesy of the website (interesting, albeit creationist and down on evolution for reasons which I don't really follow).