The tale of Colonel Cinnabar
Colonel Cinnabar (Tyria jacobaeae) lives by the sea on a bright yellow plant called ragwort. Every day he looks at himself in the mirror to see if his black wings with red patches, are up to scratch. 'I can see how they mistake me for a butterfly,' he chuckled. You see, Colonel Cinnabar is not a butterfly at all, but a detective moth and he guards the larvae and young caterpillars that depended on the ragwort for its food. These little creatures are poisonous so are seldom eaten by predators but there is one monster that Colonel Cinnabar guards them from and that is the Cuckoo!
With relatives all across Europe and western and central Asia plus a few in New Zealand, Colonel Cinnabar is never short of letters to read and he spends the summer replying to them. Quite often, he will do this whilst on duty.
One day when Colonel Cinnabar was writing a letter to his uncle in Europe, he didn’t appear to notice that he was being watched. Now this was rather strange, because it is usually the detective that does the watching. However, in this case it was the dreaded Cuckoo! He had his beady eyes on the hairy and poisonous caterpillars. ‘This will be easy,’ said the Cuckoo, ‘some detective he is!’ But Colonel Cinnabar wasn’t daft. He knew that the Cuckoo was watching him and had prepared a trap.
Just as the cuckoo was about to steal a young caterpillar, the Colonel gave the signal and the Tyria jacobaeae’s Army flew down and pushed the Cuckoo off course. The Cuckoo was dumbstruck!
‘Take that as a warning,’ said the Colonel. ‘And as punishment for trying to steal young caterpillars, you will take my letter to my uncle, on your way back to Africa!’
The Cuckoo nodded his head gratefully, so happy that he had a head left to nod with!