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Tigers, a shell, carpets, magpies and a chimney sweeper '“ just a taste of the surreal world of the popular names of moths, all of them found locally and all day-flying.

Monday, 13th March 2017, 12:00 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:10 am

Day-flying moths were the subject of our meeting when Iain Cowe, who is butterfly conservation’s recorder for the Borders, gave us the benefit of his experience and expertise in a marvellously illustrated talk.

At a guess, quite a number of our members have been involved in butterfly surveys, and no doubt a good few may have experienced the “oh, it’s only a moth” moment as a fluttering insect turns out not to be a butterfly after all.

Iain’s eye-opening photographs should certainly encourage us to take a closer look.

Why do some moths fly during the day? Avoidance of bats and availability of food could be part of the answer.

Many of them have their own defence mechanisms against birds and other diurnal predators. Cryptic camouflage colouring in some, plus speedy or secretive evasive action, are two survival strategies, while some species are unpalatably toxic and advertise the fact with bright warning colours: the cinnabar and burnet moths, with their striking black and red markings, for example.

In a way, as Iain said, this was only half the story. There had not been time to consider the caterpillar stages of these moths, their forms and lifestyles.

One of the last photographs was of the terrifying-looking caterpillar of the puss moth – something to whet our appetite and suggest a subject for another possible talk from Iain in the future.

Our next meeting is on Wednesday, March 15, at 7.30pm, in the William Elder Building, when the speaker will be Paul Morrison on Coquet Island. All are welcome.