Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Two Tigers, A New Moth & Butterfly Des Res, And How Hot Does It Have To Get Before School Is Closed?

Well, it is Officially Hot here. The thermometer is reading 30 degrees and Ted and I are instantly wilting if we step outdoors for any length of time anytime after midday. Luckily, the downstairs part of the house is cool so we are able to avoid boiling.

L came home from school complaining that "temperatures of 40 degrees have been recorded coming off the tarmac at school and we still have to do learning and I'm like Detritus (Terry Pratchett, for those who were wondering), my brain doesn't work when it's this hot. We still have to take our blazers in too just in case we have assembly, which we don't. It Is Not Fair."

I agreed, but thought it prudent to take the Mature Parent Line and use the opportunity to provide a Stirring And Inspirational Talk on the difference Attitude, Determination and Positive Thinking make to a situation, as well as the Merits for Character Building such adverse weather conditions as 40 degree heat radiating off school tarmac provides. "When the going gets tough, the Tough get going", I concluded.

L listened (or appeared to - it was hard to tell as I was driving and he was head banging and singing along to the radio, having been installed in Waitrose for ten minutes previously to take advantage of the air conditioning and cool down to the point his cheeks were no longer cerise and puffy. I wondered distractedly whether fellow car drivers would think there was something wrong with him but decided it probably didn't matter because, unless disaster struck and the new car broke down, we probably wouldn't have to get out and actually meet any of them). But I fear my efforts at Instilling Coping Strategies were for nothing because as soon as I came to the end of my Stirring And Inspirational Talk, he asked how hot it would have to get before I would let him stay at home and did I think he could sue "The Authorities" (whoever they are) for forcing him to learn when it was clearly far too hot to do so, and what would happen if his head actually exploded with the heat, as it had felt like it was going to all day?

He was still looking for ways to escape school later on, wanting to know whether he would have to go the next day if he accidentally ate some of the superglue we were using to do his collage homework (that's the Royal "We" by the way - whenever it comes to anything involving drawing, painting or colouring it's actually my homework that gets handed in. He plays his trump card of colour blindness, which somehow seems to prevent him being able to see shapes and draw them. When I told ma this during our early morning dog/ horse/ person/ walk/ ride across the forest first thing, she pointed out the obvious flaw, namely that I did Art A Level and am reasonably proficient, certainly more so than an eleven year old boy should be, and wouldn't that rouse the school's suspicions? I replied that it was a Good Point, but that Nothing Had Been Said So Far. I'm quite proud of my efforts and have got some pretty good marks this term. It'll be interesting to see what I get in my GCSE). Anyway, I told L that accidentally eating superglue would result in a trip to casualty but that he would be fine for school the next day and have the added bonus of An Exciting Tale To Tell His Mates.

Needless to say he put the superglue down.

I had a moth day yesterday- nearly 400 in the box along with several Hawks, who, for some reason, were extremely lively and flew about in circles, banging into all the others and waking them all up. I brought the box, which by this time was buzzing, indoors, utilising Ted's bird obsessions to shoo off two naughty blackbird babies who were feasting on those unfortunate moths who had fallen asleep on the outside of the box ( :-( ) and once indoors opened the lid, which resulted in about three hundred assorted winged people rising up out of the box and escaping into the breakfast room.

M, who was having breakfast at the time, stoically continued, even when several moths flew into his face and landed on his toast. They like marmalade, it turns out. I am lucky he is a good natured soul and found it funny rather than annoying. I was still in my nightie and discovered the hard way that it is best to get dressed before allowing a couple of hundred moths out of the box. A moth inside your nightie is not, as it turns out, a very pleasant experience.

L came down, took one look at them all fluttering about and went out again wordlessly. Ma rang with an update on P, who has learnt how to use his crutches and, if not quite zooming, is at least more mobile than he was, but I had to cut the chat short because I had the phone in one hand and a large egg box sheet containing approximately 50 million moths in the other and they were all starting to wake up and crawl up my arm. Moths En Masse Are Surprisingly Heavy. Added to that, an Elephant Hawk had broken free and was whirring about my head bumping into my cheeks and trying to get into my ear, which is quite off putting when you are trying to have a civilised conversation.

"What's that noise?" Ma asked.
"It's a moth" I said.
"Yes," she sighed, "I thought it probably was."

I think my family are beginning to suspect I am obsessed. This was confirmed when a parcel arrived for me later that day. It was an anniversary present from M. Here it is. 

No, it isn't an elaborately shaped child's painting box in the style of a small wooden house, it is, in fact A Moth And Butterfly Habitat & Feeder! Apparently, the brightly coloured paint contains an ultra-violet element that the human eye can't see but fluttery people's eyes can. Brilliant, no?

Actually I think it's a great present and we had a giggle reading the instructions which state that to attract butterflies you put "bits of fruit or sugared water" in the things that look like small yellow paint pots, but if you want to attract moths then you have to add beer or rum. Brilliant! L, reading over my shoulder, remarked dryly that as well as being alcoholics moths were probably also drug addicts, as it was a short step from one to the other. Sometimes I wonder what they teach them at school.

Anyhow, once the moth box was empty and everyone was either asleep on the ceiling or safely tucked up in the plants outside, I counted up and discovered I'd had 30 new species in the box, which took my total to 190 different moths since I started in mid June. Not bad for a beginner eh?

I was still working on them when L returned from school and he ate supper surrounded by moths in varying stages of sleepiness. He seems to have decided to adopt a "if you can't beat em, join em" approach, and last night set up a new organisation called "ROM", which stands for "Rights Of Moths" and is aimed largely at me it seems, policed by L and Teddy, to make sure I am not violating any important Moth Rights (such as the right to sleep when the sun is out and not be woken up by humans taking pictures of you and oohing and ahhing over you when all you want to do is be left alone. "I know how they feel," grumbled L, in his post-heat-grump).

My persistence seems to have paid off (either that or exposure has worn down his resistance) because L is now very keen to try the white sheet and torch outside at night trick (an old-fashioned moth attraction technique), which I am encouraging. Even with the outside light on last night (to encourage the hundred or so remaining in the house that it was really better for them to go outside once darkness fell) it was magical to watch various mothly shapes swimming out of the gloom, bumbling round the light before flying off again. I saw a White Plume Moth and a Swallowtail gliding effortlessly through the dark, amongst others. Magical. So if you are remotely interested in seeing moths (assuming I haven't put you off them entirely!) or indeed you have small people you think would enjoy it, now is the time to get outside with a sheet and a torch once darkness comes. This hot weather is perfect for moths and I guarantee whatever your garden is like you'll be amazed at what you see (she asserts confidently). If you do I'd LOVE to hear how you get on so please do let me know :-)

A few things to finish off with. Firstly, look at this GINORMOUS hornet (I think?) who came in this afternoon. He doesn't look entirely real, like a blown up special-effects wasp that's escaped from a Sci-Fi film set, but I promise he is.  

UPDATE- Thanks very much to Jon at ALS for letting me know this is actually a Clearwing Hornet, which is in fact a type of MOTH!!!

Secondly, does anyone know what this plant is? It's pretending to be a Harebell, but frankly it's fooling no one. Em, I wondered if you might know, being Rather Good With Wild Plants?
 UPDATE- again thanks to Jon for suggesting Dame's Violet, which led me to Shepherd's Purse, which I think is what it is. Mystery Solved. And also to my dear friend Jax who confirmed it is Shepherd's Purse. Thanks love!

Thirdly, I'm very excited because my Cornflowers have come out, and it turns out they are multi-coloured! Gorgeous!

Forthly, here is an up-to-date pic of the Woodpecker's Child, who is Growing Up Fast. I am missing Mrs Sparrow, who, with her husband, has taken the latest batch of Sparrow Children out into the vineyard to Teach Them How To Be Grown Up Sparrows, so she isn't around. I miss being almost flown in to. Still, if it's anything like last time they'll bring them all back in a few days and until then at least I have the Woodpecker Baby to enjoy watching (as long as he doesn't know I'm there because otherwise he scarpers.....)

Fifthly, here is Cleo enjoying the sun in uber casual laid back cat pose. She looks pretty good for fourteen I think.......

Finally, I'll leave you with some more Moth Pictures. The first one is the rather beautifully named True Lover's Knot, which I have wanted to see for ages so I was very pleased he/ she obliged....

And last but not least my Tigers. They are Incredibly Friendly And Affable moths who fly by day so you may see them in your garden. The first is a Scarlet Tiger.....

And the second it's rather larger cousin, The Garden Tiger, of which there were three in the box. Oh, what riches. And I'd never seen them before either... Happy Days :-)

Hope you're all enjoying the sun if UK based, and enjoying the week wherever you are.

CT :-)


  1. I am afraid to tell L that there is no upper temperature limit for schools to declare it too hot to learn. I know this because in the last heat wave however many years ago, when I could smell students roasting in my classroom, some research was done into Health and Safety and it was my sad duty to inform aforesaid roasting students that they were duty bound to stay put until they were well and truly done.

    However, there is a lower temperature limit! Can't remember what it is, but you have to stick a student to the window by their tongue and see how long it takes to pull them off, tongue skin intact. And L, given his creative experimental moments with superglue, would be exactly the innovative creature I would send to lick the window for temperature assessment purposes.

    Roll on Winter eh?!

    1. Oh lordy, he won't be AT ALL pleased by that. He's already done considerable leg work concerning a sore head this evening in preparation for a day off tomorrow. I am being extremely mean and standing by my earlier pep talk about heat being character building (which probably means I'll fold at the last minute and let him stay home after all as tomorrow's temps are set to be even higher :-) )

  2. I have a jumper just like your tiger moths.
    However, the moth that joined me at my desk last night looked like something out of Dr Who and was huge (again). I'm beginning to wonder if I have moved to The Valley Of The Killer Moths.
    Gorgeous woodpecker chick.

    1. To my knowledge, no one has ever died from a moth attack Jessica so I think you will probably be safe. Are you sure you haven't got ultra-violet paint somewhere on your person which is attracting them??

  3. I'm afraid I have no idea what that plant is - sorry. I can't really see the flowers or leaves which doesn't help, but those seed heads are an amazing shape. Someone must recognise them I;m sure. I've scoured my wildflower books to no avail. Gorgeous moths of course. Nothing wrong with a bit of obsessive behaviour!

    There definitely should be a limit to school temperatures. They can't concentrate in this heat and going outside for lessons is even worse. I;m beginning to agree with Denise about Winter!

    1. Sorry- it was a pretty crap photo, I might try for a better close up tomorrow. I bough a packet of seeds labelled "harebells" and that was the only one that came up!

  4. 300+ moths fluttering around sounds AMAZING! Must do the sheet and torch experiment while the evenings are warm!

    Your moth antics do make me laugh! My mum often asks what I'm chuckling about so I read her your funny tales then she chuckles too!

    The butterfly/moth feeder thing is SO cool. Well not proper cool, but you know, geeky/nerdy kind of cool :)

    Beautiful photos of the colourful cornflowers, but I do NOT like the look of that hornet buzzy thing. My mum has described to many that I do an interesting wasp dance whenever they come near me. I did my first wasp dance today. I'm not scared of many insects etc but wasps are my downfall.

    Anyway great to see the tigers in your garden :)

    1. I love the geeky/nerdy kinda cool comment, that made me smile. And there was me thinking I was the height of sophistication. I'm sure other wives get diamonds and champagne for their anniversaries, me, I get a moth and butterfly feeding station (and wouldn't have it any other way, my hubby knows me too well :-) )

      Glad your mum giggles at the stories too and I think she ought to record your wasp dance and put it on you tube for us all to enjoy! x

    2. Aww well I hope some day I find a man who knows to buy me geeky nerdy cool presents rather than sophisticated presents!

      Luckily I don't think mum would be prepared enough to have a device to record said wasp dance! Sorry to disappoint! :)

  5. Hi! Great to see your Tigers! Hampshire seems a Paradise for moths (and actually has a group you'll know all about with a very good website - www.hantsmoths.org.uk/ - with a Flying Tonight section for hopeless identifiers such as myself. There's another great site - www.atropos.info - which does them as Flight Arrivals, just like an airport.

    All warm wishes, Martin

    1. Hi Martin,

      I have the what's flying tonight bookmarked on the pc, but hadn't come across the atropos one before so thanks for that I'll check it out :-)

  6. Wonderful post CT - really enjoyed. You are catching some really super moths - so envious especially of the Tigers never trapped any!! I do like your new butterfly/moth house - what a brilliant present :)

    Our cornflowers are coming out here too - look so pretty and cosmos is flowering so hoping for lots of hoverflies like last year :)

    1. The Tigers are fab, really hope you get some soon too. I haven't grown cosmos this year but think i will next year round the pond

  7. Well I don't fancy that hornet munching away on my curtains! A great post CT I have enjoyed reading it, as I too have escaped from the heat outside. I would love to be in your house at moth release time. M not concerned at moths landing on his toast...how tolerant he is...he must love you very much. Great present by the way. The Tiger moths are beautiful.

    1. He is a lovely husband and thankfully has a well developed sense of humour! Plus grew up on a farm so all the wild things I love are second nature to him too.
      Hope your seagull chicks are OK? I have been thinking about them and keeping my fingers crossed.

    2. I've rescued three from the road since Saturday already! It's quite easy once caught (not that easy to catch)to put them back as they can fly quite well enough to get back on the roof tops but are no good at taking off. You just throw them up and they land quite well.

    3. I have a wonderful mental image of you rushing about throwing countless seagull babies into the air!


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them. CT.