Monday, July 22, 2013

Photo of the Week

This week is National Moth Week. The vast majority of moths fly at night and have special adaptations for a nocturnal lifestyle. They navigate using the stars and moon, find each other with pheromones rather than visual displays, have cryptic patterns for hiding during the day, and can shiver to warm themselves on cooler nights. Some moths even have the ability to hear and jam bat sonar.

However, a select few moths fly during daylight hours. Such moths are often brightly colored and might be mistaken for butterflies, bees, or other insects that we are used to seeing during the day. Among these diurnal moths are the hummingbird sphinx moths in genus Hemaris, family Sphingidae, such as the Snowberry Clearwing pictured above. Like the Hummingbird Clearwing, also in genus Hemaris, its flight is reminiscent of a hummingbird's. Aided by its long proboscis, it feeds on deeply tubular flowers such as the wild bergamot in the photo above. The strongly contrasting yellow and black markings visually suggest those of a bumblebee. When I was photographing this Snowberry Clearwing, I had some trouble keeping track of which yellow-and-black insects were clearwings and which were bumblebees. Snowberry Clearwing moths use snowberry, honeysuckle, and dogbane as larval hosts.

I photographed this Snowberry Clearwing yesterday at Negri-Nepote Grassland Preserve during a Birds and Butterflies walk led by Chris and Paula Williams of NJ Audubon. As of my writing this, thunderstorms are predicted for every night this week, so I am not sure whether I will be able to put out my blacklight.