If you build it, they will come.
You may remember this post, from about six weeks ago, in which I expressed my hope that at least one of the caterpillars I’d found, chewing their way through my forget-me-nots, might prove the tentative identification I’d been given by pupating into a Scarlet Tiger. Today was not a good day for invertebrates, being cold, windy, and overcast, and I was rummaging around the garden looking for a macro subject – and wondering how long I should leave the now very ratty patch of largely dead forget-me-nots unpulled, so as not to disturb any possible pupae – when quite by chance I glanced at this sedum, growing against the wall at the back of the patch, and there he was.
It would have been absolutely spiffing if he (or, possibly, she) had spread his forewings to display the vivid red hindwings that give the Scarlet Tiger the first part of its name, but having already seen a couple of my Cinnabars leave home when I upset them, I didn’t want to disturb him for the sake of a more spectacular image, so I approached very slowly and did my best not to attract his attention. I think I failed, because his attitude did change through the sequence of shots, but he didn’t fly – and in fact, when I arrived home from choir at 9pm he was still in exactly the same spot. These moths fly by day when it’s sunny, and the forecast is for better weather to arrive; so he may well become more mobile tomorrow, after the garden warms up.
The most interesting thing to me about the Scarlet Tiger – apart from its dramatic appearance – is that it spends most of its life as a caterpillar. The adult moths are on the wing during June and July, during which time the females will lay their eggs on appropriate larval food plants such as comfrey and nettles. The eggs hatch within about a week, and after growing to about 1.5 cm in length during the summer, the caterpillars overwinter in plant litter. In the spring they become active again and feed until they’re an appropriate size to pupate, in a cocoon which they spin amid plants or plant litter; pupation takes about a month, depending on the temperature. Most adult tiger moths don’t have mouthparts, and live only as long as their larval fat stores last, but the Scarlet Tiger does have mouthparts (as you can see here, I think), and is able to feed on nectar.
There’s a nice photo of a moth displaying its wings on the Butterfly Conservation page.
In other news: episode two of the MX-5 brake saga has now played out. The Stratford garage confirmed this morning that both front and back brakes are indeed shot to pieces, but also reported that one of the front brake calipers is seized, which they think might have contributed to the problem. After taking some unofficial advice, I phoned Mazda UK and ran the whole situation past them; and shortly thereafter was called by the dealership and invited to take the car back to them next Monday, so that they can reassess the situation. If you’re even half as bored with this as I already am, you’ll be hoping for a speedy resolution. Personally, I’m too cynical to hope, let alone expect – but at least things look slightly more positive than they did last week.