Monday, 6 May 2013
Emperor Moths, Saturnia Pavonia 5th May, Whiteholme Reservoir
Coming back from a trip to the Llyn peninsular yesterday I decided to stop off at Whiteholme Reservoir just in case Emperors were on the wing. As soon as I got out of the car the sun went in. Very windy too so wasn’t very hopeful as I set off with my net. Nearly 2 hrs later, still no sun and little more to show for my ramble in the heather than a few Philedonides lunana which keep you on your toes (thx Bri’ for the id tip off). Walking home I saw something, or did I? You know those times when something caught your eye but as soon as you noticed you were past it. Retraced a few steps expecting it to be bird droppings or a piece of litter or like the money in the street that turns out to be a smarty tube bottom. Instead it was a female Emperor, Jackpot! I have been walking the moors for 8 years around Calderdale and this is my first sighting of a female. Very fresh and newly emerged it seemed as the hind wings were still showing a few undulations. Next I noticed it was only 6 inches from its cocoon woven into the tops of the heather. There has been a lot of burning on that moor and the cocoon survived in a little 2ft diameter area of unburned heather when all around it was charred stalks. The caterpillar had chosen well. Having taken some photos and whilst packing up my things I became luckier still. From nowhere a male appeared (the only sighting of the day). Landed about 6 inches below the female and climbed up to join her. I was surprised to see them mate as earlier I saw (what I thought) were eggs. Round pale yellow/white spheres dropping into the heather. Maybe they were something else? Taking some final photographs I left them in peace. By this time on the Riponden side of Turvin road the whole moor was ablaze. Driving back down you could feel the heat of the fire inside the car and it made me think how resilient the Emperor pupae must be to be surrounded by fire and still provide me with so much entertainment.