Saturday, 7 July 2012

The Glorious Bug Hunt

What a great morning!

We all went on a bug hunt.
Although, being scrupulously honest, I didn't hunt at all, but the kids did, with Will, our secret sleuth in the field, and what a cornucopia it produced.

We run events most Saturday mornings at Beltra Country Market. For the kids of course.
(Ho ho!
You should have seen the adults glitzing up the flags they'd made on Bunting Marathon day, or gleefully icing cakes at Christmas; having their faces painted; enthusiastically making little dishes at the Pottery workshop... But I won't go on, in case I embarrass anyone. Myself in particular.)

Today was the Bug Hunting, led by Good Will - one of our Market regulars who also happens to be an ecologist. He volunteered his expertise as soon as he saw me and Nome coming, before we'd even had time to wind his arm round the back of his throat.
I had pictured him leading a happy band of youngsters around the woods and fields surrounding Beltra Hall, turning over stones, poking eager fingers into the rich, black earth and pulling hapless small creatures out of holes and rotten logs - by their legs, their wings, anything they could grab hold of (the kids, not Will, of course).

But it all started very calmly, with the younger members of the band colouring in pictures of butterflies, ladybirds, grasshoppers and other creepy crawlies, so I carried on with all the things I normally do at the Market. Today it was planning another event we are holding in a month or so and agreeing the final preparations for next week's Second Birthday Party. Hard to believe that it's two years - in some ways it seems as if the Market has always been a part of the local establishment, a sort of Fixture (and very fitting).

By the time I caught up with the Bug Hunt, everyone was gathered outside, peering into a container full of old egg boxes. I was slightly surprised, but then egg boxes are very useful and versatile objects. Not only do they hold eggs, they make handy plugs for seed growing and I once decorated a bathroom using an egg box in one hand and a handful of straw in the other - as stamps. Unlikely I know, but it looked great.

Anyway, I digress.

I soon found out what all the oohs and aahs over the container were about.

Festooned all over the egg boxes were moths. Moths I had never seen before: big moths and little moths, moths with open wings, moths with wings folded like butterflies, moths as beautiful as butterflies. It was amazing, and I got so engrossed, I forgot to take any more photos.
'Goodness,' I said to Will. 'Where do you get them from? I didn't realise you had such a collection.'

I hadn't thought about it before, but looking at the array of gorgeous creatures in the container, I realised that ecologists are probably keen Lepidopterists. Why wouldn't they be? Will's hobby is obviously studying moths from all kinds of exotic locations. I instantly pictured him at home, in a large greenhouse full of strange and wondrous plant specimens on which his pets feed, or lay their eggs, or both. Only last night I was watching some chap waxing lyrical with Rachel de Thame at the Hampton Court Flower Show. While discussing how to get more butterflies into the garden, they were simultaneously releasing gorgeous specimens to go forth and multiply. So, looking at Will's collection, I had quite a graphic image in my head, and being of a fanciful disposition, its origins weren't limited to Henry VIII's palace gardens either - these delicate, beautiful creatures conjured tropical rain forests, African nights, the silk empires of the East...

Will dispelled my continent-encompassing imaginings at a stroke.
'Where did I get them?' he repeated, slightly non-plussed. 'I came down here at 10 o'clock last night and set my moth traps.'
For once in my life I was speechless.
How little I know about my own environment.

It was an eye-opening morning, even if the eyes were working at the cost of the brain.
At my request Will gave me a beautiful aquamarine moth to bring home. It has probably flown off to investigate its new habitat now, but I released it into a vigorous clematis plant, which, Will assured me, is what this Tigger Likes Best.
Now all I have to do is try and remember what it's called.
Was it a Large Emerald?
Or a Light Emerald?
A Showy Emerald even?
Don't think it's a Southern Emerald, or an Essex Emerald.
Perhaps it's just a Small Emerald.

I'll have to ask Will next time I see him.
He's coming to set a moth trap in my garden.
I can't wait.
All those exotic, winged beauties, those elusive, magical creatures worthy of far-flung places but which live, instead, in my small patch - they will all be revealed.
Briefly, of course. Then they will disappear back into the hidden folds of the night.
But I will have seen them.
When I lie awake at 3 o'clock in the morning, I will be able to imagine them, flitting through the starlit garden.


  1. How beautiful and delicate and wondrous. My experience of moth hunting is from Car's youth when I would have to pretend to join in with his night time transformation into feline Ernest Hemingway so as to get close enough to him to pick him up and bring him indoors.

  2. What a gas! The deceptions our animals drive us to - especially the cats! I loved this morning, it was just wonderful. You so rarely get to see more than one moth up close and personal! Wish I'd been more switched on and taken photos of them, but lots of them were hidden away in the egg boxes.

  3. Oh how lucky you were to see these! I've never seen anything like them!

  4. Hi Lorely. it's a Light Emerald. It's very happy with all sorts of food plants, including blackthorn (but of course that's what the caterpillars eat, not the adults). The other moths above are Poplar hawk-moth and a Peach Blossom. Glad you enjoyed it. Will


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