Wild Life Wednesday: Evening Pollinators

A moth drinks deeply from Comphrey flowers.

~

Long past dinner time, as dusk settles over the garden, tiny flickering moths and fat bumblebees are still foraging for nectar.

~

Two moths share these sweet Physostegia virginiana.

~

We were just coming home, and camera in hand, I went to have a last look at the garden.  These little moths were fluttering so fast they weren’t much more than a blur to my eye.

~

~

I was amazed to find them everywhere this evening, on so many different plants.  Their wings blurred like the fast beating wings of a hummingbird, or a hummingbird moth, and I wasn’t quite sure what I was seeing in motion.  One might imagine them to be tiny fairies, playing from plant to plant.

~

~

The garden still whirred and chirped with life this evening as darkness gathered.  Most of the paths are still closed off with tumbled perennials after our days of wind and rain.  I had to lift and push past and step carefully over to find my way around.  It needs a bit of tidying again, but the creatures don’t mind.  They probably prefer this wildness.

~

~

But the sun shone brightly today.  The air, not quite crisp, was cooler and no longer oppressive with humidity.  With Florence well past, we are feeling lighter, brighter, and a bit more optimistic.  We left home by mid-morning, heading north to see what we could see.

~

Cane Begonias have covered themselves with bright flowers, finally, now that the season draws to its close.  These flowers offer sweet nectar, too.

~

I forget sometimes, how much wildlife calls our garden home.  This afternoon we found a golden turtle waiting for us by the garage door.  I wonder if he’d ventured out of his usual hiding places to sample some fallen grapes while we were away.

But there he was, waiting, as we got our of the car.  His neck was fully extended as he watched us approach, trusting that he was welcome there and safe.  We were glad to see him, and a bit surprised as well.  He usually stays well-hidden in the undergrowth lower in the garden.

~

Bumblebees share the Rudbeckia, even into the night.

~

From the tiniest skinks waiting on the windowsill, to the hummingbirds resting on a branch beside the kitchen window, we are surrounded by beautiful creatures here.

~

This dragonfly stopped to watch me photographing flowers yesterday, and waited patiently as I captured his image, too.

~

They are already up and foraging when the sun rises, and others still busily flying about into the night  Their comings and goings remain cloaked in mystery to us.  We see only tiny slices of their lives.

~

We’ve seen hummingbirds still feeding on the ginger lilies late into the evening.

~

And  we hear their music deep into the night.  Owls call, geese sing to us as they fly low over the ravine and over the roof.  There is a low melody of insects playing lullabies after sunset.  Then songbirds begin greeting the morning well before dawn.

~

Hardy Begonia naturalizes in shady spots in the garden.

~

These are the familiar sounds of summer drawing to a close, a celebration of life, even as the seasons change again.

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2018
~
“There’s an exact moment for leaping into the lives of wild animals.
You have to feel their lives first, how they fit the world around them.
It’s like the beat of music.
Their eyes, the sounds they make, their head,
movements, their feet and their whole body,
the closeness of things around them –
all this and more make up
the way they perceive and adjust to their world.”
.
Richard O’Barry

 

Advertisements

Moths, So Beautiful, So Short Lived

The Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus), is a member of the Saturniidae (giant silk moths) family.   This one was found resting in a potted fern on the patio.  I certainly hoped it was only resting, and would be up and flying again when night fell.  Sadly, it wasn’t.  Its very few days of life as a … Continue reading

Hummingbird Moth

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth, Hemaris thysbe.  Notice the curled proboscis which is used to suck nectar from the flower.

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth, Hemaris thysbe. Notice the curled proboscis which is used to suck nectar from the flower.

Have you seen a hummingbird moth this summer?  

This hummingbird moth is enjoying nectar from the flowers of Clerodendrum trichotomum, or Butterfly Tree.  This beautiful tree is covered in butterflies during its period of bloom from July through September each year.

This hummingbird moth is enjoying nectar from the flowers of Clerodendrum trichotomum, or Butterfly Tree. This beautiful tree is covered in butterflies during its period of bloom from July through September each year.

Hummingbird moths dart around from flower to flower exactly like a hummingbird does.  When their movement catches your eye, you think for a moment that you have spotted a tiny hummingbird.  When you look more closely, you notice that the tiny creature hovering over a nectar rich blossom and darting from plant to plant actually has clear wings. 

Aug. 3 2013 hummingbird moth 018

This is a good clue that you are observing a moth, not a bird.  Although their profile is similar, the moth is a true insect and has antennae. 

Aug. 3 2013 hummingbird moth 031

Hummingbird moths also have a furry covering on their back, much like a bumblebee.  If they stay still long enough for you to see their eyes, you’ll notice the compound eyes of an insect.

Aug. 3 2013 hummingbird moth 030

If you’ve ever tried to observe a hummingbird, you know they are very shy.  Although you can eventually begin to work with a hummingbird who visits a feeder,  hummingbirds usually fly away when they sense a human presence.  Hummingbird moths don’t seem to mind having  you close by. 

Aug. 3 2013 hummingbird moth 022

They go about their hungry business of visiting flowers without paying much attention to the camera, or the person behind it.

Aug. 3 2013 hummingbird moth 019

Hawk moths and sphinx moths  are members of the Sphingidae  family of moths.  These are the fastest flying of all insects.  They have the peculiar ability to hover in flight as they feed.  Hummingbird moths, all of which belong to the genus Hemaris, are considered to be hawk moths.  Since hummingbird moths all have clear wings, they are sometimes called, “clear wing moths”. 

The largest caterpillar I've ever seen is munching my Osmanthus goshiki shrub.  It has been identified by Bostjan Dvorak as Manduca rustica.

The largest caterpillar I’ve ever seen is munching my Osmanthus goshiki shrub. It has been identified by Bostjan Dvorak as Manduca rustica.

The tobacco hornworm caterpillar and tomato hornworm caterpillar will eventually leave their chrysalises  as  the Carolina sphinx moth, and the  five spotted hawk moth, respectively.  Both are able to hover over blossoms as they sip nectar.  Their bodies and wings are mostly brown.

This Snowberry hummingbird moth, Hemeris diffinis, was photographed in my garden this July.

This Snowberry hummingbird moth, Hemeris diffinis, was photographed in my garden this July.

Many of these beautiful members of the Sphingidae family are found in Virginia gardens.  This Hemaris thysbe is the second species of Hemaris I’ve observed in my garden this summer.  I’ve seen them in gardens all over the state.  They especially love perennial gardens full of phlox, butterfly bushes, lilac, and hibiscus.

june 20 2013 garden 010

Like all moths and butterflies, Hummingbird moths begin life as an egg laid on a leaf.  The egg hatches into a caterpillar, who eats leaves for several weeks before forming a chrysalis.  When you find caterpillars on plants in the garden, please remember the beautiful creatures they will soon become. 

July 25 2013 Garden 003

Tomato hornworm caterpillar, who has cleaned the leaves off of this jalapeno pepper plant. Soon he will be a beautiful sphinx moth.

Although they damage the host plant they’re munching, most plants will soon recover with new growth.   The caterpillar transforms into its beautiful adult form while in the chrysalis, and when it comes out, is ready to fly off in search of nectar.

This hummingbird moth and bumblebee are sharing a Monarda blossom.

This hummingbird moth and bumblebee are sharing a Monarda blossom.

To bring these creatures into your garden, plant the nectar rich flowers they love.     For a list of plants to include in a butterfly garden, click here.  Avoid using insecticides which will poison them.  Avoiding pesticides and herbicides allows wildlife to live in your garden in peace and safety.   Provide areas of trees and dense shrubs where they can rest and lay their eggs.  Your reward will be their presence in your garden for many years to come.

July 5 garden at sunset 008

All photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

Find more on Hummingbird Moths here:

hummingbirdmoth.com

Birds-n-garden

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 650 other followers

Follow Forest Garden on WordPress.com
Order Classic Caladiums

This Month’s Posts

Topics of Interest