Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Sunday, January 30, 2011

An Art Deco Moth?

This elegant moth came past my Front Porch light last night. This species of Moth is not rare, but I value them enormously, for their "elegant design". (I know, I am getting into trouble with that line of argument. I am loyal "evolutionist", NOT a supporter of "Intelligent Design".)

But let me go on further. It seems like an "Art Deco" moth to me.

Perhaps the Art Deco designers, especially transportation designers (who became obsessed with "streamlining") took their inspiration from Nature?

What better model to follow than the wonderfully streamlined Hawk Moth? So, it could simply be an example of Art echoing Nature. That makes more sense to me than "Intelligent Design" protagonists claiming that Nature acts according to our simplistic human understandings (of the enormously complex evolutionary processes). 
So there! 
Nature 1: Intelligent Design theorists 0.
Coprosma Hawk Moth - an inspiration for streamline design?
To me these Moths seem like something a car designer from the 1940s might have dreamed up, especially with its remarkably streamlined wings and body. (Check out the images on this "Streamlined Car" site

Consider also more superficial design aspects (the aesthetics) of this Moth. Consider the "eyebrow markings" and antennae, and the white legs. To me, these remind me of the "white wall tyres" and chrome finish so heavily favoured by Cadillac car designers in the "forties and fifties".
Coprosma Hawk Moth - an model for White-walled tyres and Chrome bumper-bars?
So lets get down to a bit of Moth biology.

This Moth is called Hippotion scrofa (Boisduval,*** 1832), It is known as the "Coprosma Hawk Moth".  There is an excellent photo by Donald Hobern on the Wikipedia site, plus a Museum Specimen displaying the forewings and hind wings in the traditional manner of pinned specimens.

Note the relatively plain forewings (just a hint of a dark patch). But there is a wonderfully rich red ochre colour, with a black trailing edge line, on the lower (hind) wings. The hind wings on Hawk Moths are much smaller than the forewings.
Coprosma Hawk Moth - Hippotion scrofa
According to the sources, the larvae (caterpillars) of this moth seems to feed on Dahlias, Fuchsias, and Epilobium, as well as the Looking Glass Bush (or Mirror Bush, Coprosma repens). That last plant is an introduced New Zealand plant which I remember well from my childhood in Melbourne, and which is a coastal plant, not found up here in the Southern Highlands. So, we can rule it out as a local food source for the caterpillars of this species. This Moth has a wide distribution, right across Australia and in Fiji and New Caledonia (according to Don Herbison-Evan's Moths website). Given that it was named in 1832, and is so widely distributed in Australia, one can only assume that it is a native species, and therefore must feed on a much wider range of plants than the garden varieties nominated. The genus Epilobium (Willow-herb), although universal in distribution is well represented in Australia.

*** I often note the influence of the early French explorers (La Perouse and d'Entrecasteaux and their scientists (e.g., Labillardière). In this case, the link is from Boisduval who named this Moth, from collections made either on the "Astrolabe" (under La Perouse) or the "Cocquille" (under Duperrey). Boisduval's original collection of Hawk Moths (the Sphingidae), including the "Type Specimen" of this species (presumably), is in the famous Carnegie Museum of Natural History, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.


Flabmeister said...

As well as the 'white wall' legs the wings of the moth remind me of the tail fins on vintage US cars! I can't remember if Cadillacs were so afflicted or just lower status brands such as Pontiacs! They were clearly evidence of Unintelligent design.


Denis Wilson said...

Hi Martin.
Tail Fins worried me when composing that little 'design" essay.
Your favourites - the Cadillac - mostly had vertical fins. But the Chevrolet Bel Air circa 1959 had flattened Tail Fins which could be seen as echoing the wings of my moth.
The entire world is grateful that era of madness did not last.
My father had a friend who drove such a car, but it hardly ever left Canberra. We went bird-banding in Dad's old Holden, because the other car was so expensive to run, not to mention so impractical on bumpy dirt roads. The owner could never turn the huge thing around on narrow bush roads.
I shudder to think about that era of cars.
The 1933 Pierce-Arrow had a much better, more moth-like, tail end design.
Thanks for indulging my fantasy.

Mark Young said...

I love the old cars with the white-walled tyres. I wish they made a classier enough car these days to bring them back in.

With the amount of small close-up images you take, have you thought about getting an macro lens?

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mark
There is a certain nostalgic appeal.
Re close-up shots, I use a Nikkor Micro 105mm lens (everyone else calls them Macros).
My Orchid colleagues use the newer compact digital cameras to good effect.
They get closer than I do, but I can still virtually fill a computer screen with a tiny flower.
The microscopic stuff is a bit more challenging.
I find that I can shoot from about 4 inches away (100mm) and still obtain good depth of field. Otherwise, you get the front of a flower (only) in focus.
What I really want is a good long lens. My old 300mm (cheap "kit" lens) has broken down.
Was out with someone the other day, birding, and she used a Sigma 100-400 lens. Very nice.
I tried out a Sigma "bigma" zoom (maximum 500 mm lens). But it was too heavy for me to use free-hand, and I cannot carry a tripod, plus camera, plus a variety of lenses. Too heavy for my shoulders. This 400 zoom looked manageable, with excellent results.
What "long lens" do you use for the waders?

mick said...

Hi Denis, can I join this conversation about lenses? I'm not sure how this will apply to your camera since I use a Pentax. My kit lens (300mm) just lost auto-focus so I had to replace it and I bought one only a little more expensive and am pleasantly surprised at how much clearer it is. (It's another Sigma.) I went and read a few forum posts and went ahead on that basis. I didn't want a hugely expensive lens to take out on the kayak with me.
re the Bigma as you call it. I invested in the Sigma 150-500mm last year. It was a new version of the lens and I am delighted with it's performance. (btw Tony noticed the difference in my photos the first post I put up but I didn't say anything at that time as I wanted to be really sure that I had done the right thing. Now after about 6 months use I wouldn't be without it. I can now photograph small bush birds and actually see some detail on them. I use it hand-held without any problems! However, I now carry a shoulder bag that I can put the camera and lens into and carry around much easier.

Mark Young said...

I use a Canon 300mm F4 lens with a 1.4tc for a max reach of 420mm. For shorebirds this is the absolute shortest focal length you'ld want to use. 600mm would be a good starting point. I'm fortunate though as I usually can get quite close to most birds.
The 100-400 would be great for you as you'ld use a whole range of focal lengths. I know of people who use an extension tube to bring the minimum focal distance down, but it sounds like your Nikkor 105mm is doing a great job as is.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick
Maybe I need to eat more Spinach?
If you can use the "Bigma" hand-held I ought be able to.
Glad you are happy with it.
I noticed Tony's comment at the time, but didn't know what lens you had just bought.
Thanks for the info.

Snail said...

Hawkmoths are definitely upmarket! Sleek is not a term normally associated with moths, but it fits the sphingids well.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Snail.
Yes, sleek is a good word. Actually they are quite large, and a bit fat, but I would say "well built". But the whole package is beautifully put together.

Denis Wilson said...

Over on Facebook, my friend George has attempted to shock me.
Georgiy: can you eat them?
8 hours ago ·
Denis Wilson
Sure. Big enough, and under the influence of lights they tame down, and climb onto your finger, so easy to catch!. When flying, they buzz, almost like a "fly", but this fellow, and some others the next night just sat there on my wall.
The antennae are said to be extra-tasty. They give an "electric buzz" (tingle your tongue) but only if not cooked. Discard the legs.
I gave George a tongue in cheek response, as you can tell.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mark
Thanks for the advice on Lenses.
I am doing some major house renovations at present. If I have any funds left over at the end I am going shopping!