TRR photos by Scott Rando

This hummingbird clearwing moth was found sharing nectar from a milkweed plant. This moth is fascinating to watch as it mimics a ruby-throated hummingbird, hovering near flowers and taking nectar with its long proboscis while in flight. Even its wing beat frequency is similar, with 85 Hz (cycles per second) for the moth vs. 60-80 Hz for the hummingbird.

The summer flight of butterflies

If you walk out the door during this time of year, the first insect you will likely notice is a butterfly or moth. They are easy to spot as they are typically brightly colored and larger than many flying insects. Even at night, you will run into multiple species of moths, as well as other flying insects that are attracted to artificial light. Some of these moths are quite spectacular; one example is the luna moth, which is frequently seen during the spring on window screens due to artificial light.

According to an article titled “Gardening for Butterflies” from Penn State Extension, there are about 750 different species of butterflies and skippers in North America, with about 10 times that number of moth species. Of that number of butterflies, 146 are documented in PA. Many of these species are considered beneficial pollinators in their adult stage, but some species are considered pests; the gypsy moth is one of these pests, capable of defoliating large areas of trees if their numbers are sufficient.

 

Most of the butterfly species you see in the garden are benign or beneficial pollinators, including the monarch butterfly; this species has been recovering in the last couple years from a precipitous drop in population, and is now frequently seen. If you wish to attract butterflies to your garden, some helpful hints can be found in the above-mentioned Penn State Extension article at https://extension.psu.edu/gardening-for-butterflies

 

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