Introducing the Captain....
A Poplar Hawkmoth caterpillar. I like all moths, but this species is a special one to me. It was the first of the hawks that I encountered and the memory of that meeting has stayed with me.
I kind of drifted away from moths after that first encounter, they were on my radar, but I was hooked on shorebirds and most of my time was spent on them.
Then a few years ago I was rummaging around in the dusty back of a delapidated wooden shed in a neglected corner of an already overgrown garden when I found an ancient and cumbersome mercury vapour moth trap (I have no idea where it is now, I fancy it was condemmed on grounds of health and safety. It was metal, not great when electricity is involved, and weighed a tonne).
I procured a bulb and lit it up as soon as I could. The next morning I opened the baffles and examined the contents. Lots of little brown jobs I couldn't identify, a few highly colourful individuals and a magnificent Poplar Hawk. Memories of my first encounter came flooding back and from then on I have always had a bit of a thing for these mega moths.
I'm a little more experienced with the moth trap these days but I do get a little confused on occasion and I have had a lot of help from #teammoth on Twitter.
By posting pictures of my confusion species and adding the # "teammoth" I have had plenty of great advice and a few mysteries solved by a freindly bunch of moth experts.
With team moth on my mind and the start of the footy season upon us I was musing earlier about which moths (and butterflies) I would include in my fantasy lepidopteran starting XI in my newly created Bug Premier League (I have a weird mind) and here they are.
1. Goalkeeper - Gatekeeper (seemed the most obvious choice as 'keeper)
2. Right full back - The Drinker (there's one in every team)
3. Left full back - July Highflyer (a wingback to fly down the wings)
4. Centre midfield - Poplar Hawkmoth (C) (the Captain, the backbone of the team)
5. Centre back - Buff Arches (a towering figure in the heart of defence)
6. Centre back - Grayling - (Sounds like a tough, rugged defender)
7. Right wing - Small Copper (fast and skillful flying on the wing, lots of tricks)
8. Centre midfield - Clouded Yellow (classy but with a good "engine")
9. Striker - Goldspot (the star striker, flashy)
10. Striker - Large Yellow Underwing (a big target man, a bit unruly, gives away the odd free kick)
11. Left winger - The Uncertain (frustrating, occasionally brilliant, so worth a spot in the team)
Picking the Poplar Hawk as captain was easy given my history with the species. I recently found a caterpillar of this species. It was lying on the path far from a suitable food plant. How it got there was a mystery, but it was clearly doomed if it stayed put. So I collected it and found it some fresh poplar leaves. I decided to keep it for a few days, I figured it'd be safer with me than in the hedgerows that are teeming with birds. It has fed well, it is now much fatter than the poplar twigs in its tank.
Having it with me I have had the opportunity to study it up close and photograph it in detail. It is a fantastic creature from tail...
Sci-fi directors and make up artists can come up with all the creatures they can from the darkest corners of their imagination but they will never better what is in our woods, hedgerows and gardens.
My favourite part of the Captain is the feet. Just... wow...
So to captain my #teammoth, to lead them out on to the meadows and fields of dreams, to lift the cup, I could pick only one, the Poplar Hawkmoth.