Culture

Poplar Hawk Moths – Getting ‘Fresh’!

By Bernie Bell

Pics by McB

Remember I said “leave your lawn to go to meadow, and lovely things will turn up”?   https://theorkneynews.scot/2020/06/15/just-something-cheer-full/

How about a pair of Poplar Hawk Moths, mating!  Mike was taking an after work turn around the garden, on the 12th June.  He came in, and said there was something I’d like to see  – and he was right!

There they were, clutching a Plantain stem, next to a small Bay Willow – end to end, taking no notice of us, at all.

poplar hawk moth credit Mike Bell

Credit: Mike Bell

Using his very good camera, Mike took pictures from various angles. From above, you can see their legs, holding on, and, very clearly, their antennae. The female (the one on top!) has pale antennae, while the male ( the one below) has reddish coloured, ‘feathery’ antennae. The antenna which he will have used, to find his mate!

They were very ‘fresh’ – not just in the ‘Carry On’ films sense of the word, but also, they were very fresh in their colouring – not a bit weathered.  It’s possible that the female had only recently emerged from her chrysalis, under the earth, probably at the base of the Bay Willow.  Poplar Hawk Moths pupate in the earth, very near to the surface, then they emerge, and – get mating, get ‘fresh’.  Then, she’ll lay her eggs on the leaves of the nearby trees – including an actual Poplar!  The caterpillars can then hatch from the eggs, with a ready-made food source.

And those caterpillars, when ready, will go into the earth to pupate, at the base of the tree they’ve been feeding on, and so, the cycle continues.

I wondered how long the Poplar Hawk Moths spent mating as, surely, that would leave them vulnerable to being eaten?  But –  from a distance they do look like a dried up leaf.  The camouflage must work, as there are still Poplar Hawk Moths about!

Mike first saw them at about 6.30 pm. – and they were still there, still in position, just before 9 pm.  No’ bad!!!  Tantric Poplar Moth Mating – Sting would be envious!

We went inside and drank a toast to LIFE, in all its forms.

poplar hawk moths credit Mike Bell

Credit: Mike Bell

While on the subject of moths seen near where we live.  A few years ago, Mike was walking down the road from our house, when he noticed an Emperor Moth on a dandelion in the verge by the road…

Emperor Moth credit: Mike Bell

Credit: Mike Bell

The Emperor Moth is splendid, and its caterpillar is also splendid, in its own way.  It’s bright green, with pinky – red tubercles (that’s warts to me and you), covered in bristles!  Mike has seen one, but we don’t have a pic – you can’t have everything.

More on caterpillars – later…………………

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