Ronaldo’s Moth

I could never say that I was much of a fan of football. Kicking a “fly-away” as we called them, around the school playground is about the extent of my soccer experience. So you can imagine, I wasn’t overly excited about the final of the Euro 2016 championships. However, I was wrong. But it wasn’t the skills of any of the pampered, prima-donna’s on the park that caught my attention. It was much more exciting.

After 10 minutes or so I was beginning to get bored, until I noticed a moth flying into the eye of Christiano Ronaldo, the Portugal captain, as he sat on the ground crying. One of my friends made a joke about whether the moth was the reason he was being carried of the park, and we all had a giggle. However, as the camera panned out we noticed that the moths were all over the park. Attaching themselves to all the players and managers, flying in swarms in front of and even landing on the camera.

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As an ecologist, it was then that friends started asking me about the moths. I was first to admit that I know very little about moths, other than they are attracted by light, so I suggested the stadium lights might be to blame. We all know moths are attracted to light, and seeing moths at night, in well-lit areas at is a common sight. However, why were there so many moths, thousands of them. Surely they can’t all be moths from the nearby streets, there must be a reason so many moths were drawn into the stadium.

After a short time on google I discovered the reason was fairly simple. The moths were Silver Y moths, a common migratory species which moves north through Europe during the summer in search of breeding grounds. The moths migrate in enormous clouds, taking advantage of winds and weather to maximise their progress. The stadium light had been left on since the day before, allowing them to act as an enormous moth trap, drawing down the swarms of moths the night before.

The numbers of moths (which are common in the UK) can fluctuate greatly from year to year, in some years they can be extremely numerous. Traveling in huge swarm during the day and at night. The possible reason for the massive numbers in the stadium may be due to strong, constant winds which have been blowing from south and south western wind over the last few days, of which the moths will have taken advantage of. They just happened to be flying over Paris.

Although it was only a brief distraction, it was also a fairly spectacular one, as the hundreds of moths, which had been resting on the turf, suddenly rose up into the sky as the players approached the pitch. For the remainder of the match they remained in constant view on screen, landing in player’s hair, landing on the camera screen, on the managers, officials, nothing could escape!

It was a dull match in which pretty much nothing happened, except for being the match were Ronaldo was attacked by a moth. Which ended up being enough for many, as dozens of “Ronaldo’s Moth” Twitter accounts were created within seconds, with hundreds of amusing tweets being left. After a pretty poor tournament, it was unlikely going to be a memorable match. However, thanks to a few hundred migrating moths it became a memorable event, at least in my opinion.

 

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Ben Wright

Ben Wright

I am a consultant ecologist with a special interest in protected species and birds. I have some past experience in science writing. I formally wrote a science column for a local paper, and composed a book based on the column (Science Matters) which has just been published.

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