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April 19, 2014

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Nature provides many ways to be amazed

Photo by U.S. Forest Service

Photo by U.S. Forest Service

Published: 8:16 AM, 05/30/2013 Last updated: 8:17 AM, 05/30/2013
 

Author: Amy Renfranz
Source: The Blowing Rocket

Nature provides exceptions to every rule — at least, every rule humans have tried to command of nature.
 
It is not that nature is deliberately trying to be difficult; she just does not know any better. She has not read the latest scientific journal about what she is supposed to be doing. She is not interested in being helpful and easy to identify.

As a result, nature is dynamic and not altogether predictable.
 
Nature provides many chances to be inspired and surprised. By keeping your eyes open and by asking questions, you might just learn something new.

While in my garden today, I noticed a creature flying around in the flowers. It was black and gold like a bumblebee, but it was moving very quickly from flower to flower. Its behavior was more like a hummingbird. Then I noticed that it had long antennae. What was this little creature?
—  Janice, Boone

This little creature is a moth. I have heard people call it the snowberry clearwing, but I like to call it the bumblebee moth.
 
All butterflies and moths are lumped into one large order, called Lepidoptera. Ninety percent of the Lepidoptera order is moths. However, butterflies seem more abundant to us, because they fly during the day when we are also active.

The rulebook says that moths are active at night. They prefer the darkness because they feed on the nectar of night-blooming flowers, and they have adapted to navigating by way of the moon’s light.
Moths tend to have thick, fuzzy bodies when compared to the relatively sleek bodies of their butterfly cousins. And instead of turning into a chrysalis, the moth caterpillar will wrap itself in a cocoon of silk thread.

While it maintains many moth characteristics, at some point in time the bumblebee moth developed different adaptations than other moths. Rather than having showy wings, the bumblebee moth has clear wings. Its fuzzy body has the yellow-and-black markings of a bumblebee.
 
Looking like a bee allows the moth some protection when outside during the day. A potential predator might think twice before snatching it up.

The little bumblebee moth will dart from flower to flower, hovering as it drinks the nectar. It certainly is a sight to see and is one of those creatures that defies the rulebooks.

If you have a question concerning flora and fauna, please email (dearnaturalist@gmail.com) All of your questions will be answered. One or two will be featured next week. See you on the trails.


Amy Renfranz is a certified naturalist through the Yellowstone Association Institute and a certified environmental educator in the state of North Carolina.  

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