Friday, 21 September 2007
The last of the butterflies
There have been very few butterflies here this summer. After a hopeful start to the spring, with more orange tips than I have seen here, the summer, as everyone knows, was a disaster. Many butterflies emerged late, when the weather finally improved and, though there was a flush of peacocks on the buddleias recently, colder nights mean that overall numbers have been very poor. A few painted ladies and red admirals have fluttered and flirted round the garden, but even numbers of small tortoiseshells have been poor. In past years I have loved to see the small dusky ringlets dancing amongst the grass stalks on our evening walks, but this wet year did little to encourage butterfly numbers or such outings. Even the dogs didn't complain at staying in when it rained.
Worse, though, than the lack of butterflies has been the complete absence of moths. Northumberland is not perhaps the best county for variety anyway, but at least the burnet moths and cinnabars on the dunes are always spectacular. The garden mostly offers a selection of small brown or frilly white moths which can be hard to identify. The greenhouse, though, is usually shared with yellow underwings, which zonk about the tomatoes while you are picking them. Not this year, not a one. This year I have seen a mouse moth. That's it. I'm fond of mouse moths, I was pleased to see it, and helped it back outside when it got stuck. But I would have been pleased to welcome a few of its friends.
Devon has been little better, according to my mother. I recall nights in Devon when it was only possible to sleep with your head under the bedclothes, so many creatures were whizzing round the room. Emeralds, garden tigers, elephant hawk moths, riots of colour. Delicate, feather-winged plume moths could be found on the bindweed in the garden. At least in Devon numbers may recover a little next year if the sun shines. Here, I am afraid that time is running out.