Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Emperor and the Ants

The Tau Emperor struggled to be born. He flapped his four wings furiously, firstly to dry them, secondly to get out from under the twig that had fallen over his cocoon sometime during his long, winter pupa state. Gradually he succeeded, his wings took on the sheen of caramel coloured velvet. The translucent, Elizabeth Taylor eyes on each wing, bright blue heavily ringed with black, glowed with a power to frighten predators. Or so it was to be hoped for he had but a short life before him.

I watched for a while then went to fetch JP to confirm that this was indeed a Tau Emperor, one of the few moths to be active during the day. It would be a shame to hide all that beauty in the dark. However, apparently by one of those annoying quirks of nature, his consort has a more normal moth behavior and only flies in the dark. She needs to emit immense amounts of pheromones to lead him to her.

By the time we got back to where the Tau Emperor had been in the grass, he had made his way to a drier and sunnier spot on the stone path down to the farm. This was a mistake, his big mistake. As JP bent over him to observe more closely, he noticed the Ants. Large Ants were attacking the hapless Emperor, swarming round him, getting onto his body, his legs. JP picked him up, carefully in one hand, brushed off the Ants and put the Tau Emperor on a near-by beech leaf. Perhaps even the very bush, if not leaf, on which he had started life as an egg the previous year. The Tau Emperor had only five out of his usual of six legs.

A philosophical moment here. Tau Emperor moths have no proboscis, only vestigial mouths and digestive tracts. They live their very short lives – four to five days – on the fats stored in their bodies when pupae. So what was the point of rescueing him from the Ants? Apart from the fact that he was beautiful to look at and that he would probably have a wonderful five days of sun and sex.

Only Tuesday's patron saint, Saint Denise, suddenly joined the ranks of the 'Saints de Glace' as temperatures dropped by nearly ten degrees. So he may not have had sun and sex either.

1 comment:

  1. If ever there was a post in need of a photo illustration! https://encrypted.google.com/search?q=tau+emperor+moth