Earlier this week a large moth spent the day on the window at the office where I work (my day job). The moth was large with a thick furry body and hooky/scaly legs. I am reliably informed that the moth was a Catocala, a large drab grey moth with bright underwings, which are usually either orange, red or pink. We think this moth is the Red Underwing Catocala Nupta. As it takes off the sudden flash of colour can confuse a potential predator, particularly as the colour quickly disappears again when it lands and folds its wings.
We had such a good view of the underside of its body because it was on the outside of the window – which was fortunate for the moth. So many people disliked it. Common reactions included: ‘I hate moths.’ ‘Urgh.’ ‘Kill it.’
No amount of tapping the window dislodged it. It did, at one point, make a dirty protest (for those of you not familiar with the term this is where excrement is smeared on walls, floors and, in this case, windows etc). But, since that was on the outside, we weren’t too bothered and we couldn’t clean it off anyway– the windows don’t open and we’re on the first floor.
Since the moth spent all day on the window, surviving wind, heavy rain and even a little sunshine, I decided to adopt it. I named it Hilary, a unisex name because it’s difficult to tell the gender of a moth.
My colleagues informed me that when I left Hilary flew off, so was no longer my pet. I corrected them on this; as I passed by outside on my way home I whistled Hilary down and he/she swept into my pocket. Hilary then spent a happy evening gnawing away at the nylon inside my jacket. A colleague commented that Hilary is a very adaptable moth, since moths usually prefer wool. It’s true; Hilary is a modern moth, adapted to modern living and modern fabrics.
Apparently moths do not live long – as little as a few days to a few months. Their main purpose in life is to mate, once that is done it’s all downhill. Logically, if I prevent Hilary from mating he/she will live longer. Is that preferable? I don’t speak moth so cannot ask Hilary.
So, what is it about moths that people find so repulsive? What is it that insights the reaction ‘kill it, kill it’?
Answers on a postcard.
And, for those of you who worry about moth welfare, Hilary is now free range – no longer confined to my pocket.