Friday, 21 November 2008

Silence of the Lambs moth find a mystery

South Yorkshire daily Star November 1st 2008
By Staff Copy,via Yorkshire Moths and my Dad
AN EXOTIC visitor from far, far away is providing a perplexing puzzle for staff at Sheffield's Botanical Gardens.
Gardeners have found a rare Death's Head Hawk Moth – a giant of its kind famous for featuring in the blockbuster chiller The Silence Of The Lambs.
The seven centimetre moth – which can boast a wingspan of up to 13 cms when fully grown and is the largest species ever seen in the UK – was found dead in the glass pavilions.
It was taken to moth enthusiast Ed Kelly, who owns the Gatehouse Gift Shop at the gardens, for identification.
Ed called in Sheffield University etymology expert Richard Naylor, who was equally baffled by the exotic immigrant.
The sinister-looking creature's natural habitat is in southern Europe, and how one ended up in Sheffield is a mystery.

Ed said: "To see a moth like this is an incredibly rare event.

"Richard said they are sometimes blown here across the Channel but only a few arrive each year and they never breed here."

Specimens making it into the UK are sometimes found in southern England, but hardly ever make it north.

Ed added: "Richard wondered if it had been transported here in one of our plants or in the soil, but we've had no recent deliveries like that.

"It looks like it has just emerged from its chrysalis but has died perhaps because it is too cold.

"It is a bit gruesome – it has the distinctive skull marking on its back."

The moth will be on display in Ed's shop for the next few days and will then be donated to the university.


Paul Talbot..aka Moffman said...

Hi Andy
Incorrect on two counts.

Deaths Heads do breed here, its the pupa that do not survive the winters. The larva & pupa are found in potato fields. Much less regular today as larva due to the modern mass use of pesticides on potato crops

The pupa shown in the corpses in Silence of the Lambs is not a Deaths Head as the films props dept cocked up, its type of Convolvulus Hawk (note the long proboscis in the pupa shown in the film).

Pity an interesting find was, as usual, not correctly recorded in the press.

charlie streets said...

Ok,just to confuse matters, Waring states that "the moth featured in the Silence of the Lambs was actually the closely related Eastern Death's Head - A.styx,an oriental species.

Where as Wikipedia says:
Popular culture:
An Acherontia styx pupa found in the soft palate of a murder victim is a vital clue in the thriller novel The Silence of the Lambs; in the movie version, however, while the script still refers to styx, the species depicted is Acherontia atropos.

Clear as mud :-)

AndyC said...

Hopefully it will create some interest in non moffers to keep an eye out for another....Death's Head.I would love to see/find one......It could have been a lot worse in one of the there a madman on the loose ...etc

Paul Talbot..aka Moffman said...

PBM Allan writes of paying the women picking spuds in the fields sixpence per pupa for any undamaged they brought him. That year he emerged some 42 ( I think it was 42) adults over winter in a heated greenhouse. After taking some for his collection he let around 35 go on warm spring day. So get to the spud fields in autumn and get yer bag of tanners out :-))

I fancy having a look around here next year (every farm grows some spuds). Allans tip is only to look over the first couple of rows at the edge of a field for damaged potato plants, easy to spot due to the amount of damage and they only every occur on the first few rows at the field edges.

Just edit the Wikpedia entry to what ever you think is correct. The CIA edited George W's entry so no reason why you should not correct the Lambs entry ;-)) I have not got the film so cannot be certain exactly which pupa is shown.

AndyC said...

What year was that.?