This is a story based a true story. You only need to know that some British moths attract their mates by releasing strong pheromones on the wind. The males can travel large distances when they experience the scent in order to be first in class. This fascinating ritual attracts wildlife film makers to record the event.
Wend Topograph held the lens bag tight to his chest and sniffed. He bet it was all that bloody heather that had set off his hay fever. Look at it. Bloody everywhere. This wasn’t what he signed up for. A quality internship, they said. Work with the best, they said. Get a foot in the door, they said. He looked at his (limited edition – knock off) Nike’s and spat. The only thing he’d got his foot in was pony shit.
‘Hey, kiddo. Over here.’
‘Sure. Just wend your way over.’
Wend plastered on the expected smile. Sodding dickhead. The three men he approached stood in a small group staring intently at the ground. Wend wondered what they’d found and then told himself he didn’t care, even if gold nuggets were oozing out of the mud.
‘Not much, for all the effort, Ben.’
Wend looked at the speaker as he hovered outside their tight circle. Which one was Ben? Was he the director or the camera man? He wasn’t the nerdy Pillock in the waxy jacket. No, he was a Doris or something. Bred insects. God, was that even legal? Like that freaky Austrian dude who kept girls in his basement.
‘I think Norris has a plan, Dan.’
Norris, yeah that was it. ‘Hello?’ Wend wanted to get back to the road and the girl in the food van. Now he had a plan for her. ‘You said come over.’
‘Hold that thought Wend. We’ll need a close up so you could start sorting out the telephoto lenses.’ The speaker – definitely the director, Ben – turned back to the group and bent down. Wend followed his gaze. Nestled in the heather was a gauze covered frame and sitting on the outside an enormous brown moth. Wend stood back, quickly. ‘Christ what’s that? Does it bite?’
As Norris’ expression turned from confused to incredulous and Dan the cameraman mumbled ‘cretin’, Ben put an arm round the youngster’s shoulders. ‘It’s a moth, Ok?’
Wend wondered how comforting that was meant to be. He dumped the hold-all and began to turn away only to be stopped by a growl from Dan. ‘Stay there. We ain’t finished.’
Wend glared back but knew better than to disobey. Instead he turned and stared towards the road imagining sharing a buttie with the busty cutie.
Behind him, Norris crouched down. ‘Normally I’d let the female moth meet her mate inside the cage.’
Dan shook his head. ‘We need a clear shot. It has to be on top of the heather.’
Ben didn’t look too sure. ‘What if they fly away?’
Dan laughed and Norris nodded. ‘She’s sent her pheromones to bring him in and he’s flown miles for this chance. They’ll go nowhere.’
Wend looked back, curious despite himself. What were they up to?
‘Right.’ Ben rubbed his hands. ‘You ready Dan?’
Dan mumbled something as he took the bag from Wend, dug out two lenses and handed it back.
‘Thank you,’ Wend mumbled sarcastically.
‘What?’ Dan clearly wasn’t paying attention.
‘Do you need me or shall I go back to the car park?’
‘Hmm?’ Dan fiddled with the lens and looked at the youngster. ‘Just hold the bag and keep out of the way.’
Muttering about dickheads, Wend snatched the hold-all and moved a few feet. He tugged his phone out of his jeans and swiped the lock screen.
Meanwhile Norris bent down and gently undid the net cage. With even more care he lifted the female emperor moth from her captivity and lowered the stick she clung to onto the top of a bright patch of heather. ‘That okay?’ he asked Dan who was already engrossed behind his camera. Having taken some stills he swapped and began to record.
Ben leant in close to a nervy Norris. ‘What happens?’
Norris could barely contain himself. ‘The female continues to release her scent and the male will soon seek her out. It won’t take long before they’re in cop.’
‘When insects mate we say they are in cop. Short for copulation.’ He looked at the bemused Ben. ‘They begin to have it off?’
‘Oh yes. Of course. That what we want.’
Dan bent lower. ‘You didn’t say this was a porn shoot, Ben. I’ll want a slice of the action.’
Ben laughed. ‘Maybe leave that to the lad. I think he’s playing with a porn channel given his colour.’
Dan looked across to where Wend stood, his face in profile. He had indeed gone pretty red.
‘There!’ Norris drew their attention back to the moths. The male had already moved into position, though the awkward angle at which the female presented herself, perched as she was on a stick on top of an exposed clump of heather meant the logistics were challenging her amour’s abilities.
‘Should we move them?’ Ben sounded anxious, as he stood back to let Dan film from a different angle.
Norris shook his head. ‘No, they’ll find a way. Nature is extraordinary in how it ensures each species procreates. They don’t need any help.’
The three men waited as the vibrating male moth twisted left and then right in his attempts to engage the female. After a few minutes Dan rocked back. ‘I’ve got that. I’ll get a few close ups while we wait for him to do his thing. Oi, kiddo. Can you stop all that personal improvement and bring me the 500?’
Wend broke away from his phone and sighed. Clarrie, the catering assistant was equally bored and had been providing Wend with some examples of her daily specials available to him when he got back. Grumbling he dug in the bag and stomped over to where the three men were grouped. He noted the net cage lying to one side and gave it a wide berth. He wasn’t going anywhere near those moths.
He stopped just behind Dan know was crouched down. ‘Here you go.’
Dan didn’t move.
No one moved. No one spoke.
Bloody hell, who did they think they were.
Wend stepped forward, until he was in front of Dan who looked up at him, horror struck. Wend sniffed. ‘Your lens, right? I’ve had enough. I’m off from a cuppa.’ When Dan didn’t move, didn’t speak he dropped the lens next to him and marched off in the direction of the parked cars.
No one watched him go. They only had eyes for the patch of heather on which Wend had stood. The self same patch on which the male and female emperor moths had sat. Each of them expected the worst, two delicate creatures crushed beyond recognition.
Instead, the two moths were locked together ‘in cop’ as Norris had delicately put it. While Dan filmed and snapped away, Ben shook Norris’ hand. ‘Thanks.’
‘No, thank you. And thank your young assistant too. I don’t suppose he expected to be the pimp to two moths when he came to work today.’
This was written ins response to this week’s #writephoto prompt