Moth Extracting Nectar From Flowers In Garden
The flower is the petunia, and the moth is the hummingbird moth. It's no surprise how the moth—a member of the sphinx moth family, got its name, and anybody who's ever seen one will recognize it. You will be watering your flowers on a bright summer day, and out of the corner of your eye you think you notice a hummingbird off to your right, flitting between the petunias in your flower bed. You look down and are momentarily taken aback. That's not a hummingbird, or any kind of bird. It's a moth!
Mary Ann Lambert of Minnesota was on a mission to capture the elusive creature on video. Her opportunity came on this warm, sunny day (we can reasonably infer from the bright colors and sharp contrasting shadows that this was a sunshiny day; and because it's outside and petunias bloom from spring to autumn we at least know it wasn't winter; and finally, as an ectothermic insect, the hummingbird moth only appears on warm days).
This species of moth bears many similarities to the hummingbird, but there are a few key differences we should note. While the hummingbird inserts its long, needle-like beak into the flower, and once there, uses its sticky tongue to extract nectar, the moth doesn't have a beak, but rather a long tongue, which can curl back like a party horn, bringing the nectar back into its mouth. Both creatures have wings, of course. The hummingbird moth's wings are initially covered with colorful scales, but as they lose the scales the wing takes on a sort of stained glass look. For this reason the hummingbird moth is sometimes called the clearwing hummingbird moth. Our subject, however, still has plenty of solid pastel color left to its wings.
While the hummingbird moth enjoys nectar from whatever flower it can find it, they lay their eggs on a much smaller range of plants, especially roses and fruit trees like plum and cherry. This is because the larvae don't feed on nectar, but on leaves. Gardeners don't seem to mind, as the moth is a useful pollinator which brings fertilized seeds to their flower beds.
We hear ghostly wind chime notes in the background, and by the measured fluttering of its wings, we assume this video has been slowed down for the benefit of our limited human senses. The camera also captures the swoosh sound of the moth's wings beating the air. It's quite the mesmerizing video.
It is such a peaceful scene, capturing the delicate interconnectedness of life in the flower garden. Such places are a micro ecology that transcends the bigger picture. Tuning in to garden life gives us the opportunity to escape life-shortening stresses. Tuning our sense to the smaller picture lets us see creatures completely differently. On one level, the hummingbird moth is just another insect. But closeup, it's a denizen of the fairy kingdom, spreading a magic so subtle that only a lucky few can detect it. You might say the vegetable gardener cultivates food, while the flower gardener cultivates magic.