Place: A road along a row of eucalyptuses, and a wall along that road.
Time: Many years back.
That’s where I first saw this. Just a curious school boy who had nothing better to do than spy on small creatures, I did not know its name. But the black and orange of its body and wings stopped me right in my tracks. I had seen nothing like it before in my life. Then, with a silent ‘wow’ spreading all over my face, I noticed the small cluster of perfect round white spherical dots by its side, and realized – it was laying eggs.
The colouration of this strange winged insect was so striking that it caught my sight from feet away. The wings were not ‘downy’ like those of the butterflies and moths. They resembled dragonfly wings, only they were a pattern of black and white. And white bands on the legs. There was a sense of style to this one.
Well, white bands on the body and legs also come in the Anopheles, but it is way less charming to see that customer winging it close by. I won’t deny it, I used to find Anopheles mosquitoes somewhat cute because of that pattern. But that does not make them any less unwanted and killable in my eyes and I smack them with equal savagery.
Forget about mosquitoes. Back to our charming unidentified flying insect.
That was the first time I saw it, and I saw it many more times since then, in Purulia, in Narendrapur, and in other places too, probably. By no means is it a rare find. But, till last night, I did not know its name.
In fact I did not bother to find out. It was just that familiar nameless insect I knew by its colours. I could have found out easily, of course, in this day and age. But I simply did not find the urge to do it.
Then comes along Instagram, and a picture I took gets posted thereon, and I am asked the name of the insect. So I go to look for the name.
I find the genus, but not the species. I also find that this insect is supposed to be an Australian, not an Indian. Well, I did find it first on an eucalyptus row, may be that wasn’t a coincidence. Maybe the shiny bluish elongated beings in the higher dimension were trying to tell me something.
They are called the ‘Tiger Moths’, or so it seems. They are also called ‘Woolly Bears’. I’ll clear it up here for you. 1) Yes, they are moths, after all. 2) No, they are not bears. The reason they are called ‘woolly bears’ is that their caterpillars are covered in fine hairy spines. I know this shows pathetic naming skills on the part of biologists, but we’ll get to that later. But you get why they are called tiger moths, right?
So, this guy here is most probably the Amata cyssea. The Amata part is confirmed. I am not positive on the species part. From the number of orange bands it has on the body, 2 that is, it looks like a cyssea. Don’t pronounce it ‘sissy’. I am 95% sure that it is not pronounced ‘sissy’.
And you know what these guys eat when they are teenagers? Any guesses? By ‘teenage’ I mean the larval stage.
Well, as I am not sure about the species, I should not go off telling you what they eat just for dramatic effect. But who cares.
They eat Oryza sativa. Rice, folks, they eat rice…