Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wild orchids and an exotic moth

Yesterday afternoon, when I gazed towards the east from my bathroom window, I was quite excited by a tiny band of clear white sky that seemed to be peeping over the mountain ridge at the far end of the valley. Would this be a harbinger, at last, of the fine warm weather for which we've been waiting for weeks and weeks?

Well, it wasn't, because rain soon started to fall. Consequently, there hasn't yet been a slot of two or three days of sunshine to dry out the patches of turned-up earth, alongside my house, that are destined to be my vegetable garden.

I've got a great little rotary tiller, which I've been using over the last week or so, but this kind of machine is not very efficient in soggy soil.

Ideally, the soil should be so dry that it crumbles apart as soon as clods get hit by the revolving blades. But that's hardly the case for the moment. Meanwhile, the landscape around Gamone is sumptuously green. On my daily walks up along the road with Fitzroy, I've admired glorious patches of wild orchids, which apparently appreciate the damp overcast weather. One of the common specimens that is growing in abundance is the Monkey orchid (Orchis simia), which gets its name from the four mauve lips of the flower, which look like a tiny monkey lying on his back, in the middle of the flower, with his outstretched arms and legs in the air.

On one such orchid, I found a superb specimen of a Five-spot Burnet moth (Zygaena trifolii), which had probably emerged only recently from its cocoon. I succeeded in bringing it home with me, nested in a small bouquet of orchids and wild roses.

Normally, the larvae of this insect (called a zygène du trèfle in French) are supposed to thrive on a common form of wild flowering clover called Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus). Clearly, my specimen has refined tastes, since it prefers to dine on orchids.

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