Monday 30 May 2011

Suburban Hawks

Yesterday I saw my first Lime Hawk Moth of the season (and it might well be the last, to judge by the past two years' poor showing). It was a lovely fresh specimen - so fresh in fact that its wings hadn't fully expanded - and it was sitting about six inches up from the pavement on the bole of a street lime tree. It's one of the natural wonders of suburbia that every year, around this time, if you keep your eyes peeled, you stand a chance of seeing one of these large, beautifully marked moths on the trunk of one of our commonest (if least suitable) street trees. Other hawk moths occasionally turn up too - I remember the occasional Poplar Hawk from my boyhood, and one that flew in through an open window one evening in the great drought summer of 1976. Similarly an Elephant Hawk graced my breakfast room with a nocturnal visit a couple of years ago. But my most vivid memory of suburban Hawk Moths dates from way back in my childhood, when my father returned home from work in high excitement, clutching a matchbox into which he had coaxed a Privet Hawk that he'd spotted on a garden hedge. Now that is a truly spectacular moth...


  1. Why do they plant such inappropriate trees in town? Around these parts it mostly consists of Limes, which drip their loads of sticky dirt attracting gunk over all and sundry, or London Planes, who have, for at least the last six weeks, been dumping humongous quantities of throat, nose and eye irritating seed heads into every spare nook and cranny.

    We'd be better off with delicate and shimmering Silver Birches.

  2. I know - it's insane - Lime and Plane are both beautiful trees in the right place, but hopeless as street trees, especially as they have to be hideously mutilated to keep them down to size - the Lime Hawks are the only consolation. Nowadays, happily, there's a trend towards small maples, acacias, rowans and suchlike - and birches, but they too produce astounding quantities of irritant pollen and seeds. Kensington has a nice line in small oriental planes - v elegant - and even magnolias.

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