Wildlife in Cemeteries – no 9 – The Goth Moths are coming!

Six Spot Burnet moth Brompton Cemetery July 2018
©Carole Tyrrell

As we prowled the side paths bordering Brompton Cemetery’s celebrated Courtoy Mausoleum  on an Exploring Butterflies day in June of the this year, we also discovered roughly half a dozen caterpillars. They were  unconcernedly munching away on wildflowers or ambling along grass stalks. Usually caterpillars are always so well hidden and camouflaged, especially in long grass, but there they were.

These two attractive specimens  would develop into day flying moths whose presence and colouring were very appropriate to a cemetery.  In fact they could almost be known as the Goth Moths.

Cinnabar moth caterpillars Brompton Cemetery June 2018
©Carole Tyrrell

These stripey beasts feasting on ragwort are the caterpillars of the Cinnabar moth.  When they transform into moths their colouring is very dramatic in scarlet and black:

Cinnabar moth in all its glory shared under Wiki Creative Commons
©Charles J Sharp Sharp Photography

The other caterpillar was nearby as it quietly made its way along a long stem of grass.  In my opinion, it was another prettily patterned one, which will eventually become the Five Spotted Burnet moth.

Six  Spot Burnet caterpillar Brompton Cemetery June 2018
©Carole Tyrrell

This is another dramatically coloured moth in red and black and it gets its name from the number of red spots on its black wings and one appears at the top of this post.

As Goths like to roost in cemeteries and are known for their black clothes which are often contrasted with bright colours such as scarlet and purple it seemed entirely appropriate to find two examples almost named after them.  It was also great to see caterpillars doing well in such an urban environment so obviously the cemetery’s management plan of leaving areas uncut and left to grow wild is working well for nature in 2018.  Long may it continue!

Mating Six Spot Burnet moth Brompton Cemetery July 2018
©Carole Tyrrell

 

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell

 

 

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Wildlife in Cemeteries No 4- Life and Death – springtime flowers

 

An April day in my local churchyard, St George’s and a profusion of Spring flowers on one grave.
©Carole Tyrrell

 

Now that the spring equinox has arrived and winter seems to be coming to an end this is a good time to be visiting cemeteries.  The vegetation will have died back and you can often find little gems which would normally be covered by undergrowth.

But cemeteries also attract many spring flowers as I discovered when I went to photograph Dr James Barry’s tombstone  in Kensal Green cemetery recently.  It was a March day and was initially overcast. But eventually the sun decided to make an appearance despite the slight nip in the air.

As I walked up the main avenue to the Anglican Chapel I noticed that in some areas the large swathes of flowers almost flowed like a colourful carpet between the graves and memorials.  The   backdrop of grey granite, pensive angels, crosses, Turkish men and many others emphasised their bright colours.  Yellows, pinks, blues, whites and purples:  they were all reminders that life goes on.   Some graves were an absolute riot of nodding flower heads as the breeze made them move.

Snowdrops are often seen in churchyards. They are traditionally associated with Candlemas Day on February 2 and are often known as ‘the passing of sorrow.’ They are also called corpse flowers as the unopened bloom has been said to resemble a lifeless body in a shroud.

Here are some of the flowers that I saw, both in Kensal Green and also in my local churchyard:

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©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell