Moths and Flowers

Litocala sexsignata on Salix fls.Lycomorpha grotei on Rhus fls.

Above, a Litocala sexsignata moth on willow flowers; A Lycomorpha grotei moth on sumac flowers.

Almost everyone has the butterfly/flower thing down, although many people don’t realize that butterflies are not good pollinators. Generally, their long legs keep them far above or away from the stamens, which carry pollen, and their long probosces reach delicately through the reproductive parts to extract nectar. Butterflies, generally, are nectar thieves.

It might come as a surprise that moths are similar, but most tend to visit flowers at night. Not all moths feed as adults, but many of those that do are also poor pollinators, for the same reason that butterflies are. And lots of moths are diurnal–let’s keep in mind that butterflies and moths are not really different. Butterflies form a set of Lepidopterans that have adapted to living during the daylight, and therefore use color and pattern more than most moths do. Otherwise they’re just day-moths. But several families of moths are diurnal, and especially at high altitudes where the nights are very cold. Here are a few moths visiting flowers during the day.

Eriplatymetra coloradensissyngrapha

An Eriplatymetra coloradensis moth on Monarda flowers; Syngrapha angulidens moths on nodding thistles. Note that in scientific nomenclature, Latin names are italicized, as they are foreign words. Also, the genus name is always capitalized, while the species name is never capitalized. All this to make Karl Linné feel better.

Author: Samuel A. Johnson

This blog is about hiking, thinking, and writing.

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