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Back from the brink - cricket ground discovery stuns scientists

Scientists have been stunned by the discovery at a cricket ground of a creature previously thought extinct.

A breeding colony of Tineolla Biselliella - a white moth known as the Umpire's Pocket Moth - was found during building work at Plague Moor's Cemetery Gates ground.

"This is truly a remarkable discovery," said etymologist Professor John Spoon of Hoggshire Polytechnic, "it had been widely assumed that this species had long gone."

The moth has a unique life cycle that relies on an availability of a dark, moist environment amongst man-made fibres. Although not exclusively restricted to the pockets of umpires' coats the moth found the mixture of fluff, food scraps, chip forks and half-sucked Tunes to its liking.

Umpire's Pocket Moths have developed bright red headphones and enjoy listening to groups such as Moth The Hoople.

Tineolla Biselliella was once extremely common in British cricket grounds but advances in umpire's personal hygiene and the widespread availability of cheaper laundry facilities removed the insect's natural habitat.

Professor Spoon has already visited the site to see the insect for himself. "Many moons ago its appearance was always considered one of the signs that summer was here; like the first cuckoo, the arrival of the swallow and skin cancer. Umpires would take the field and suddenly a great swarm of freshly hatched moths would fly out of their pocket and form a cloud of brilliant white before dispersing. The game would stop and the players gaze in wonderment at the miracle of nature, whilst the umpire in question removed a can of fly spray from under their hat. But from the late '50s onwards it became less common. The last reported sighting was in a game in 1962 when a single specimen was seen clinging to a stump before being squashed by Reg Prattle's arm ball."

'Two Ton' Carmen - Victorian tea lady whose remains were found buried alongside a treasure trove of urns, cups and mummified scones.

Despite widespread searches the species was never found again and was declared extinct in 1965.

However, after workmen moved into the ground a number of surprising discoveries were made. Firstly, as an old bomb shelter was being demolished it was found to contain Sid and Elsie Whatmore, who had been living there since an air raid in July 1943, unaware that the war was over. Although pleased to be liberated from such cramped conditions both Sid and Elsie found it difficult to comprehend the rise of skiffle music and the non-availability of powdered egg.

A structural survey of the pavilion's cellar, which had not been entered in several decades, led to builders unearthing several ancient burial tombs containing the mummified remains of a number historical Hoggshire league figures such as Victorian tea lady 'Two Ton' Carmen.

Finally it was when the old groundsman's lawnmower shed was demolished that the most amazing discovery of all - the colony of Umpire's Pocket Moths - was made.

" The shed contained a number of discarded umpires coats that had not been near a laundry for a long, long time. This created an environment where the moths could breed undisturbed for decades. Several of the coats still contained old pie crusts, broken biscuits and potted meat sandwiches, which were preserved in the rarefied atmosphere of the pockets and remained available to the moths as a food source. "It was a miracle that these coats had remained unwashed and unworn for so long," said Professor Spoon.

Skip, pictured in 1975, helping groundsman Rex Blenkiron lay down a heavy loam fertiliser at the Thistle Bowl.

It was pure luck that the significance of the moth's re-emergence was spotted. Veteran official Larry Tugg was visiting the ground on the rob and recognised the moths from his early days in umpiring.

"One landed on my tie and I thought to myself 'I haven't seen one of those for donkey's years' so I contacted Hoggshire Natural History Museum. I used to suffer terribly from infestations of Umpire's Pocket Moths and it wasn't a very pleasant experience. They used to fly out at inappropriate times - like when you were queuing in the labour exchange or lining up a shot at snooker. There was a whole load of them coming out my pocket the moment I exchanged my wedding vows. I told the wife it was confetti but I don't think she believed me."

Hoggshire has a notable history of Lazarus Species - animals once thought extinct, only to be found alive and well. The last known living dinosaur in the world was Skip, a Triceratops owned by Thistle Bowl groundsman Rex Blenkiron, which died in 1978. Blenkiron had found it in a cave in Hoggshire's largely unexplored Trescothick Valley. Blenkiron trained it to pull his heavy roller and always assumed it was some sort of big dog. Skip was well known by cricket supporters at the ground for his playful nature and ability to eat postmen whole. Blenkiron was known to keep Pterodactyls, saying that they came in handy

Of insects and men: Hoggshire umpire Wendell Gee sports his famous bee-beard at a match in 1962.
for keeping children off the wicket. However, they all escaped when someone left his shed door open during a game in 1973 and they were last seen picking off the first form at St Verruca Primary School's sports day.

Professor Spoon has spent time studying the relationship between some species of insect and cricket. "It's not just Tineolla Biselliella that enjoyed a symbiotic relationship in the cricket world. There is a species of nocturnal spider only found in the batting gloves of nightwatchmen. It favours the relative peace and quiet of the kit bag and the fact that it will only be disturbed when there is fading light- its favourite time of day. There have also been reports of a type of giant praying mantis that kept wicket in the early days of Indian one day cricket."

So what is in store now for the Umpire's Pocket Moth ?

Plague Moor chairman Sid Cruel said "we were getting Rentokil in but the do-gooders have put a stop to that. Apparently they are a protected species or something. It's going to be like when that Giant Panda turned up at the nets and tried to eat all of our bamboo. We would have just normally pushed it off a cliff or something but animals have rights now - or so I'm told. The world's gone mad."