Culture

Another Interesting Moth…………….

By Bernie Bell

Pics by McB

About 6.30 in the evening on the 2nd October, towards the end of a lovely sunny autumn day,  Mike went for his after-work walk down to the Bay of Hinderayre, where he found what he thinks is a Convolvulus Hawk Moth on the pebbles by the base of the sea-wall.  It caught his eye, not just because of the vivid pink stripes on its abdomen, but because it was quivering its wings, presumably in an effort to warm up its flight muscles. We’re not sure if it is definitely a Convolvulus Hawk Moth – it may be a  Pine Hawk Moth, or a Privet Hawk Moth – it’s a bit hard to tell, as we’re not experts, just interested.

Initially he took it for a Privet Hawk Moth, remembering the specimens in his late father’s moth cabinets (different times!), but consulting his old copy of Richard South’s ‘Moths of the British Isles’, quickly showed that the forewing pattern is very different.  At first, Convolvulus Hawk Moth seemed too large, the forewing pattern seemed much more like Pine Hawk Moth but (again remembering his father’s collection) the pinkness of the abdomen stripes seemed unlikely for this species.  Having looked at pictures online, Convolvulus Hawk Moth does seem more likely, and Mike is guessing that this strongly migratory species would be much more likely for Orkney than either Privet or Pine Hawk Moths.  As none of these moths are native to Orkney, it must have come from elsewhere. 

He knew that it wouldn’t last the night, down there on the beach, so he placed his finger in front of it, and, possibly because it sensed warmth, it walked onto his finger.   He then eased it into his (empty) binoculars case, and brought it home.

When we opened the binoculars case, the moth started to liven up as it sensed the warmth of the house. First, stamping its feet –seriously – it looked for all the world like it was stamping its feet.  Then rapidly quivering its wings. Then it emerged from the binoculars case, and onto Mike’s hand.

We took pictures, which are a bit fuzzy as we were in a hurry – wanting to disturb it as little as possible before releasing it – and – it wouldn’t keep still!  We’ve sent our photos to the Orkney Moth Recorder, and the Orkney biodiversity records centre, and we’ll see what the experts make of it.

If you have any sightings of interesting/unfamiliar moths, here’s how to contact both of these…….

For the Orkney moth recorder…

http://www.orkneycommunities.co.uk/fieldclub/index.asp?pageid=592113

For the Orkney biodiversity records centre…

http://www.orkneylibrary.org.uk/OBRC

Mike then took it down the garden and left it on a Balfour Willow which is nicely tucked in by the area we call the Jungle.  If needed, it could go further into the Jungle for shelter.

I doubt it will live much longer – it is October, and there was bad weather forecast.  Mike’s  ‘rescue operation’ maybe gave it a bit longer, and, well, he couldn’t just leave it there, exposed, on the beach, when it had come so far to get to Orkney.

What a fine beast it is though.  Neither of us had ever seen one before, and it’s just good to know that they are there – another little bit of LIFE, or bio-diversity if you like!

PS….At about 11 am on Saturday the 3rd, the moth was still there – even after torrential downpours.  Still alive, hunkered down, clinging to a thistle stem!

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