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London, United Kingdom
This blog will contain pictures and information from my everyday encounters with nature in London and the surrounding areas. I will log details of the origin of each photograph thus recording what there is to be seen and where it was seen. I very much welcome anyone else who can upload photos and information about nature in London and the home counties. I work freelance in the film industry so have plenty of days off. I hope to update Monday to Friday and once on the weekend posting at around 19.30, I don't post on bank holidays

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Hawkmoths & Coevolution

Death's Head Hawk Moth

Hawk Moth Caterpillar
The Death's Head Hawkmoth (to the left) is easy to identify by the skull shape on its thorax. They were made famous by 'The Silence of the Lambs' although it is not the same species talked about in the book. The take honey from beehives by simulating the squeak made by the queen and secreting a smell which mimics that of the bee. They can drink up to 50ml of Honey per night so for a honey producer they can be extreme pests. There are three species of Death's head.
       The picture to the right is of a fully grown Hawk moth caterpillar I took in North Weald Essex. It was on an Ash tree although they will usually be found on Willow or Lime. There is a species called Lime Hawk Moth.
     Hawkmoths became one of the creatures used as evidence in Darwin's theory coevolution. In 1862 Darwin saw a Madagascan Star Orchid that's flower produces nectar at the bottom of a very long thin throat. Darwin predicted the existence of an insect capable of pollinating this flower thus supporting the theory of coevolution. No insect was known of at the time but around 40 years later in 1902 two biologists named a giant Hawkmoth that had an extra long proboscis (tongue) capable of pollinating The Star Orchid. It's Proboscis was around 20cm long and powered by blood being pumped through it. There are 1500 plus species of Hawkmoth and they can be catergorised by the pattern in which veins run through their wings. They may be spotted all over London!

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