I just saw the prettiest moth ever in the backyard. Of course I didn’t have my camera so I had to borrow this image (and the one below) from Wikipedia. The spots were bright butter yellow.
I first noticed it peripherally and thought maybe a bumble bee had come for a visit. I must have flashed on the fuzziness and the orange bits. It alighted onto a nearby vine and I thought it was strange that I didn’t hear any buzzing. But when it darted away — zoom zoom — the movement seemed quite anti-bee-like yet not quite butterfly-like. Butterflies in Texas approach the size of church hats and their flight is darn near as floppy. Whatever this creature was, it had my full attention now.
I dropped my hand shovel and went into full stalking mode not even CARING if the neighbor’s chickens were going to gossip. When the mystery creature finally rested again I clearly saw the wings and body. This creature was small and fluffy. It looked more like a moth than a butterfly even though it was the middle of the afternoon.
What a relief. Texas has about eleventy billion butterflies but only a handful of diurnal moths. I might actually have a chance at identifying it.
How can you not love the internet in moments like these? One quick search for a ‘moth with black wings and yellow spots’ and … success.
The caterpillars which look dangerous (brightly colored and spiked) eat the leaves of Virginia Creeper, Pepper Vine and grape vines (domestic and wild); the adults take nectar. We have wild grapes and Virginia Creeper growing here and there on the property. With luck maybe some eggs got deposited. If so, the Virginia Creeper seems like the better bet. It has already begun to unfurl the first of its leaves. The grapes remain dormant with just a hint of pink at the buds. Since two generations can be expected each year I might be able to see another flight in May or June.
Full geek disclosure: every time I ‘discover’ a new creature I channel the spirit of Archimedes.
The thrill is so great I don’t even care if every reference tells me my so-called discovery is a terribly commonplace creature found everywhere. Learning that something so lovely is also common does nothing to dampen my enthusiasm.
You know what makes this little discovery feel even more uplifting? The word Alypia means “freedom from pain or grief.” Now I love this moth even more. It kind of feels like the universe is trying to encourage us all on this day leading to spring.