Small and beautiful

The mint moth

The mint moth


The smallest of things may be amongst the most beautiful: the fragment of the shell of a skylark egg, a minute piece of sea glass, the delicate marks on the flower of an orchid.  Yesterday two absolute gems caught my eye; one in the garden, one on the path of a walk.

There is a tiny moth that is flying at the moment (I am not referring to the clothes moth that is also on the wing this month - the cause of some stressful attention!) which is found in gardens around the herbs.  It is called the small purple and gold, or more affectionately, the mint moth.  On and around a stone wall outside the garden door of the rectory, we have large well-established bushes of thyme and lavender, sage and mint.  Fluttering in the sunshine as we partook of coffee, taken in the garden yesterday morning, this gorgeous little moth, that flies by day or night, drew us to it, its bright yellow markings on chestnut wings contrasting with the new young green growth on the lavender. It is less than half an inch across, but is packed with beauty.  In the ‘wild’ its caterpillars feed on thyme.  It is a moth of the sunny, scented country of the kind of sheep-cropped hills familiar to us, as well as gardens where it seems to favour marjoram amongst its food plants.

Later in the morning we took our daily walk and found ourselves on a path close to the California Quarry.  Our eyes caught sight of the first small blue butterfly of the year.  Though common enough in Dorset once it is fully emerged, in Northern Ireland I recall this little butterfly as a prized sighting on the limestone escarpments of Fermanagh.  Some years it was never seen, and eventually it was declared extinct in the area, though found in the next door county of Donegal.  It is a low flying little creature; dark and dusky, with pale underwings, and easily missed.  How can something so small, be so lovely?  Its sheer delicacy and fragile presence makes its tiny form as memorable as the flaming sunset of last night.  God has given us so much - and the eyes to see them.

John Mann