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  • Rights: The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato
    Published 21 November 2018 Referencing Hub media

    Dr Robert Hoare reads a poem he wrote about the native moth (Houdinia flexilissima), whose larva is known as Fred the Thread. The poem is from Robert’s book Six-legged Things and Scaly Wings: An anthology of New Zealand insect verse (mostly about moths). When not writing poetry, Robert is an invertebrate systematist with Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research.

    Learn more about Robert’s work with these Hub resources.



    I have a little poem about Fred the Thread, which I wrote.

    I have a friend (his name is Fred)
    He’s thinner than a cotton thread
    His colour is an orange-red
    He doesn’t feed on jam or bread
    But Sporadanthus stems instead.

    Such narrow tunnels must he tread
    He needs a hinge inside his head
    To give his jaws the room to shred
    The food that is his home and bed
    And stop himself from dropping dead.

    Now when our friend is fully fed
    And knows the time has come to shed
    His final skin, a sense of dread
    begins to filter into Fred:
    How fast, he thinks, the time has sped!
    And what a sheltered life he’s led!
    He hopes he’ll have some outdoor cred
    And won’t be thought of as inbred.

    He sloughs his skin from A to Zed
    And there’s a pupa in his stead!
    Three weeks have passed, and it’s incred-
    ible to see the adult Fred,
    A mothy person born and bred
    To look like that on which he’s fed.

    He shows an admirable ded-
    ication to his art, his sed-
    entary posture leaving ed-
    ucated mothmen ruby-red,
    The effort of locating Fred
    Causing a rush of blood to head
    Resulting in potential med-
    ical emergency and bed
    With cooling drink and favourite Ted
    Until delirium has fled.

    To summarise, he’s Fred the Thread,
    He’s red and has a hing-ed head
    His head is used to shred his bed,
    His bed’s the food on which he’s fed,
    His bed is red and I am led
    To think the redness of the Fred
    Reflects the bedness of the red
    I mean the redness of the bed –
    The bed he shreddeth with his head
    Until the Fred is fully fed
    And sheds the skin he has to shed
    To flee the bed that must be fled
    To lead the life that must be led
    To woo the wife that must be wed
    To father further Freds of Thread.
    Then Fred can smile and drop down dead.

    I’ve said the things I wanted said.

    Dr Robert Hoare, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research

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