3 July 2012

A Moth Workshop

brimstone moth in container
Brimstone Moth (?)

Forty Tawny Moths and Seven Silver Ladies

In a room behind the grand Victorian facade of Manchester Museum 7 silver-haired ladies and 1 silent man examined 40 moths trapped in an Urmston garden the night before.

elephant hawk moth
Elephant Hawk Moth

This Saturday I attended a workshop on moths run by the museum’s Urban Naturalist programme which is specifically for adults. So many ‘find out about’ sessions run by museums or other similar organisations are family friendly events which is handy if you have children to entertain (I’ve been one of those desperate parents) but makes for an embarrassing day if you don’t have a child to bring along as cover. You feel an idiot asking questions or handling specimens alongside sticky-fingered 8 year olds. Well, I do. So having an opportunity to be unashamedly geeky with fellow grown-ups (I believe it’s correctly termed ‘lifelong learning’) is a relief.

What struck me that afternoon, though, was the nature of the moth people. On similar outings I’ve found the participants to be a mixed bunch with a common sartorial taste in anoraks, but the moth group were predominantly female, smartly dressed, and silver haired. The only man (apart from the two genuine naturalists) was a rather uncommunicative bachelor.

I wondered what brought these women to the museum to look at moths. Of course, they could all have been bloggers on a mission to find a topic to post about, but more poetically it was as though we recognised ourselves in the moths.

We too have done our living, all our emerging and eating and pupation is over, and now we are in our papery silver years. Over-looked and fragile, was there some part of us that felt an empathy with the creatures trapped inside the plastic containers?

trapped moths
Magpie Moth

I don’t know why the man was there. He didn’t look at the moths and asked only a couple of obvious and forgettable questions. Perhaps he wanted to know how to pin them down, but didn’t dare ask.

peppered moth
Peppered Moth

On the other hand ... it may be the case that moths spend most of their lives crawling through dirt and chomping on leaves, but the weeks lived with wings are the most fecund  ;-)