Sunday 23 July 2017

In praise of the lowly moth

How expert Heather Greer shows us that the butterfly's cousin is just as lovely

Mary Kenny
Mary Kenny
Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

Everyone loves butterflies - but moths? We tend to think of moths as our enemies - we buy moth repellent to kill off moths and their eggs, so that our winter woollies (they love cashmere) are protected from their depredations.

But Heather Greer has opened my eyes to the charms of the moth, with her study of the moths and butterflies of Connemara. Many moth species have lovely names - the Emperor Moth, the Peach Blossom, the Common Emerald, the December Moth (known in Irish as Leamhnan na Samhna, or Hallowe'en Moth) and pretty colouring to match.

Heather has a special reason, perhaps, for embracing the oft-despised moth. She's a trans-sexual (she changed from male to female in the 1980s, making the "final stage" of the journey in 1990) and she feels a sense of identification with the moth and its lowly status. The moth has had such a bad press! We abhor moths without knowing much about them: but only about three moths out of 4,000 species are clothes-eaters. The vast majority eat plants, grasses, brambles and a wide range of herbaceous perennials. The main culprit for clothes-eating is the tiny Brown House moth: Heather emphasises that "99.999pc of others are totally innocent!"

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