Moths And Butterflies: A Life Lesson

Acronicta rumicisMoths and butterflies offer a useful lesson in growing up.

The most attractive children often grow up to be the dullest adults. My most glamorous classmates have gone on to be accountants and solicitors. The record producer and the brain surgeon were pretty inconspicuous at school, so far as I remember. There are some exceptions, of course, like the Elephant Hawk Moth – spectacular in its youth and spectacular as an adult.

I think this exotic caterpillar chomping my Purple Loosestrife is the larval stage of the Knot Grass, Acronicta rumicis. The adult is – well – one of those moths which is beautifully camouflaged against bark. Like an accountant on the 6.15 London Bridge to Purley.

It turns out the Knot Grass is a pretty promiscuous eater, which is lucky for it. There’s recently been much focus on which plants are good for pollinators, but not very much on which plants are good for which caterpillars of moths and butterflies. People talk vaguely about nettles, which are indeed a foodplant for a number of moths and butterflies, but different butterflies and moths need all sorts of different plants. Most of these flowers and grasses are native, of course. Many are rather more attractive than nettles, which are not a great favourite of mine (sorry!). The keys to planting them, as usual, are diversity – diverse flora, diverse fauna and volume – clumps are good for short sighted moths and butterflies.