It’s National Moth Week, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some interesting tidbits about these important pollinators.
Yes, just like butterflies do in the daytime, moths transport pollen between flowers as they feed on them (mostly) during the night. In addition to being important pollinators, moths are food for birds and other animals. Scientists estimate there are at least 150,000 species of moths worldwide.
Since most people writing about moths this week will probably focus on the typical night-flying species, I thought I’d show you some of the diurnal, or daytime-flying, moths. The one pictured above is a hummingbird clearwing moth. I caught this photo as it fed on the wild bergamot in my garden the other day. I happened to be standing up close to the flowers with my macro lens on (as I often am…), waiting for something to happen, and suddenly this beautiful moth flew right in front of me and spent a couple minutes flitting among the flowers. I used a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion of the wings, which allows us to see the namesake clear wing panels.
Here’s a yellow-collared scape moth sharing a sneezeweed flower with a bumble bee, also in my garden.
Next up we have the buck moth, a member of the silkworm family, with a wingspan of 2-3 inches. Here in Ohio, the adults can be seen flying around oak savannas at mid-day in the early fall; they don’t have mouthparts and only live for a week or so, just long enough to mate. As you can see, this is a male with huge feathery antennae that allow him to detect the female’s sex pheromones. If you’re interested, here’s some info about a study that suggests that females prefer males with big ones…antennae, that is. And here’s more detail about the buck moth life cycle, with lots of photos (from the University of Florida Dept of Entomology).
And last but not least is one of my favorite little moths, the ailanthus webworm. I often see these in my garden, and they could be easily mistaken for beetles if you hadn’t seen them before. I’d noticed this one during the afternoon today but didn’t try to take photos because the sun was so harsh. But just before dusk I found it again, actively feeding on my common boneset. I took a few photos and then got a bit of video; I think the video came out pretty nice since I had the tripod this time (I’m so lazy about taking my tripod with me!).
I was happy to capture the curled proboscis. Here’s the video:
Finding and photographing moths in the daytime is much easier than at night, although there are some stunning nocturnal moths that are very much worth seeing if you can manage the late hours and have a good light setup. If you want to read about some nocturnal moths, check out this post I wrote a few years ago about the thrills of nighttime mothing when I attended Mothapalooza in southern Ohio. (I’ve got plans for a trip to see dragonflies in Brazil in January, and the place I’m staying has a moth wall setup so I’ll be in insect heaven for an entire week — odes in the day and moths at night. #NoTimeForSleeping)
But whether they fly in the day or at night, all of these moths are important to helping sustain human life on this fascinating planet. I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know them a bit better.
Happy National Moth Week!