Bird's Eye View of Bute

The Privit Hawkmoth

(1) Privit Hawkmoth
(1) Privit Hawkmoth


The Privet Hawkmoth

No matter what part of Bute I walk about, there is always something that will catch my eyes on most days, but last week I had the ‘moth’er of all finds. I was walking on the ‘West Island Way’ when at about two hundred metres into it from its start at Kilchattan bay, when I came across a poor wee creature that seemed to be on its last legs.


It was the biggest moth that I have ever seen. The body length was about 50mm= 2ins, but the wingspan was an amazing100mm= 4ins. Unsure of its identity or if it could cause me problems, I spent a bit of time looking at it very carefully, just in case it had hitched a lift on one of the many ships steaming up the Clyde, and had come from foreign parts.
All seemed well, except for its health, so I picked it up and put it into my spectacle case, and into my backpack. I carried on with my walk and arrived back in Rothesay just in time to catch Ivor in the museum.
Well Ivor recognised it right away and took me to the display which held other species of moths. The one that I had fits into the species of the ‘Hawkmoth variety, of which there are ten of them in one of my books. The one in my spectacle case was ‘The Privet Hawkmoth’. And they get there name from the larva that feed on the privet hedges, and also on lilac flowers. These larvas are bright green with purple and white diagonal stripes, and a dark tipped horn at the tail end.
By my book, they are common only in South England? Yet the museum has one and now I have one? So a few of them must have hitched a lift after all. I am not complaining as it is great to find something new. Many years ago I was camping up at the Dhu Loch, and my dog went AWOL in the darkness. So it was out with the torch to look for her. It was no good shouting as she was quite deaf. As I was wandering around I saw what appeared to be a single small light. It was that bright that I was glad that there were not two of them, as I would have done a runner.
It turns out that it was a ‘Glow-worm, which are also not supposed to be here, they are also confined to the south. Then again, if our lovely Scottish Midge has been found far into England, it is only fair that we allow some of their creepy crawlies past Carlisle, they give us more of a variety to look for.
Well my moth, which had spent the rest of the afternoon and evening in a box covered with a black cloth, had made a good recovery and at late evening I took it up to the Skeoch Woods and put it on a tree trunk to photo graph it and then put it up a bit higher in a safe darker place, and left it overnight.
The next day I checked it out, and it was gone. It may have flown, or became a meal for something bigger than itself, but it was given a chance.
The colour of them is - wings, grey mottled that would be hard to see them when at rest on a tree trunk. But when disturbed they expose their abdomen, which has two red stripes at the top reducing to pink ones further down their bodies. A pair of long grey antenna that look like a moustache. Not the nicest of things if they landed on you, but as they are few and very far between, that is highly unlikely.
As for the wee dog? She obviously did not like camping; she had headed for home, and was tucked up in bed by the time I got back.

Norrie Mulholland.

First Published in the Buteman 29-08-2003


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