And she made it. This is the long awaited sequel to my last post whereupon I decided to keep a shiny, brown, finely tapered pupae found in the garden hidden beneath a fine coating of soil and transfer it to yet another shallow depth of soil but this time in a tank on my desk.
I wrote in length about how I was to witness true theatrical greatness as I saw Pixie (named of course. What normal person doesn’t name their moths?) spread her sensual wings and take the well earned leap to freedom. I would watch her flutter away sadly, with bright, tearful eyes. A proud, but anxious parent….turns out reality was rather different; after leaving the lid open like a common amateur moth keeper, she escaped (this does sound as if she was a amateur moth keeper who left the lid open of her own tank, but I assure you that’s me – she’s much too responsible for such stupidity) into the house and was found by a disgruntled family member (“disgruntled” is used in a stretch of the word, “terrified” is more apt but I’m not to say that to preserve their dignity. Just promise not to tell anyone ok?).
I was able to then catch her and place her back in her tank. Now up close and personal was able to identify her as a Large Yellow Underwing moth; by the beautiful deep yellow lower wings, bordered in black beneath crisp and mottled brown upper wings covered in almost cryptic patterns. The one other defining feature for me is a “hunchback” of mousey brown “fur” just behind the small pointed head.
As a caterpillar she would’ve had a voracious appetite and eaten all manner of vegetables and grasses, quite often called a ‘pest’ by unkind farmers and people alike (here I must apologise for having called farmers unkind and also seeming to suggest that they aren’t people. Neither are true for the most part and I’m simply keeping the line for the comedy it provides). But food plants for caterpillars of yellow underwings do include ragwort, marigolds and foxgloves.
Large yellow underwings are one of the most common species of moth to grace the palearctic regions of our planet (this is one of the eight realms of biogeography that exist on earth, and although it sounds like a creation of a fantasy fiction novelist, it’s simply a term coined in the 18th century to categorise regions of the planet containing life – The Palearctic is the largest of the eight realms. It stretches across all of Europe, Asia north of the foothills of the Himalayas, North Africa, and the northern and central parts of the Arabian Peninsula). The larvae can be found from August to early spring, feeding at night and hiding underground during the day.
So they’re quite well travelled visitors to our humble shores.
Pixie has a long way to go yet.
PS: I know you’re all wondering so in answer; yes. I did get my proud parent moment as I watched her leave home in that fluttering flight pattern used so commonly to confuse predators. But I didn’t cry. Because she’s a moth. Not my child. I don’t have any children.
PPS: The ground colour of the male is a rich red-brown or darker brown with very few markings. The female tends to be darker with more markings.
Whilst out in the garden I did catch a glimpse of some other beautiful critters; white tailed bumblebees collecting pollen in those golden sacs on their legs.
And of course a myriad of wildflowers painted the summers day with the pallet of nature. I’ve become quite poetic in my ramblings it would seem; red roses, ragworts, buttercups, dog rose and others sprinkled colour over the green background.