Along Came a Spider

Dateline:  June 10, 2011*

I mowed around the dead annual tickseed to give this guy a chance

I always get a little sad when it comes time to mow the meadow area of my yard. I know in my mind that it is the pathway to rejuvenation, yet I still try to mow around that one late bloomer. This week brought an additional dilemma. While mowing down the spent tickseed (Coreopsis spp.) in anticipation of rosy camphorweed (Pluchea baccharis) taking its place, I noticed a grouping that was covered with juvenile garden spiders. I steered around (I don’t use a rider, I have a self-propelled walkbehind) to save them from the fate of being swallowed up in the clipping catcher and having their tiny webs ruined. There are dozens of juveniles making a home in my yard this month.

I have dozens of juveniles throughout the front “meadow”

The Yellow Garden Spider, a.k.a. Black and Yellow Argiope (Argiope aurantia) is a large orbweaver that does not have a retreat near their web so they are usually found in its center. They like sunny areas among flowers, shrubs, and tall plants. They provide pest control and tend to stay in one place unless the web is frequently disturbed, or they can’t catch enough food there.

Sometimes they will grab a butterfly, but that’s all part of the food chain in action

They are easily identified by the stabilimentum (reinforced area) in web which is a vertical zigzag band above and below the middle of the web. Juveniles make a circular stabilimentum in the center of the web.

Yellow Garden Spiders are quite colorful
They can handle pests 200% larger than themselves such as this bird grasshopper or the lubber shown in the featured photo at top.

Like all spiders, black-and-yellow argiopes are carnivorous. They capture small flying insects such as aphids, flies, grasshoppers, wasps and bees and immobilize this prey with a venomous bite. A female can take prey up to 200% of her own size. They may bite humans if harassed, but this bite is considered harmless.

They disable leaf-footed bugs, a common pest
At night they will capture beetles that may try to come in the house

Yellow Garden Spiders are food for birds and lizards. They serve ichneumonid wasps and some flies which lay their eggs in the spider’s egg cases. One study found that in addition to Yellow Garden spiderlings, nineteen species of insects and eleven species of spiders emerged from their egg cases so they are an important species in our beautiful wildlife garden and should be accepted and appreciated. source

Spiders shed the exoskeleton several times as they grow

Just be certain they don’t have high hopes of taking on bigger prey! 😉

Be careful if they start looking at the neighbor’s horses

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on June 10, 2011 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.

Ant Supermodels in the Garden?

Dateline: February 21, 2014*

Graceful Twig Ant (Pseudomyrmex gracilis) with signal fly

Well, once again I have a new member added to my buggy life list.  Meet the Elongate Twig Ant (Pseudomyrmex gracilis) a.k.a. Slender Twig Ant or Graceful Twig Ant. I’m not sure I’m happy about this fellow.

Also known as the Mexican Twig Ant, it is native to Mexico and occurs south to Argentina and Brazil. In the U.S. it is mostly found throughout Central and Southern Florida, but there is also documentation in Texas and Hawaii.

With its long and slim build, I thought perhaps it got its common name from some throwback to the 1960s when the supermodel Twiggy was so popular.  That’s when it was first discovered in Florida. But of course the name comes from something more mundane…it builds nests in twigs.

I suppose I should be happy that I spotted him walking along the wooden fence, carrying some bounty. It seems these guys give a PAINFUL BITE, and often encounters occur when you pick up brush to move it…which I do quite frequently at this time of year.  Now I have to make sure I put on my gardening gloves that I’ve been known to forego if they aren’t close by when the mood strikes to clean up an area.

These twig ants hang out high in trees and have been known to drop down and land on people.  Another reason I wear a hat at all times when outside…I hate having things get tangled in my hair. So, another reason I’m not so sure this fellow is welcome at my place.

I thought maybe it was a moth, but from this angle it looks like maybe a stink bug.

I couldn’t quite make out what he was carrying, but upon closer inspection via zoom on the computer, it appears to have wings and legs, so I’m thinking a moth of some sort but then again, from a different picture, it just might be a stink bug. Whatever it is, Twiggy has the poor thing by the head.

Although it is occasionally found nesting in doors in homes, the colonies are small so not a major concern.  They prefer the great outdoors and hollow twigs. Still, ornamental plant damage also is minimal from this species.

They do hunt and feed on live insects with a preference for lepidopteran larvae and fungus spores. Hopefully they are heavy on the caterpillar pests and spores and light on our butterflies. Ok, I’m being shallow. ;) As with most ants, they are attracted to aphids for honeydew.

Pseudomyrmex gracilis with moth prey

Yet another species for me to watch and learn more about. The never-ending discoveries in my beautiful wildlife garden continue to amaze me.

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on February 21, 2014 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com.


Sex in the Wildlife Garden — Baccharis halimifolia

October is Native Plant Month in Florida. I’m dusting off and republishing some of my lost articles on our fabulous natives.

Dateline: November 13, 2011*

OK, have I got your ATTENTION?

I’ve talked in other articles about plants that are dioecious, meaning there are separate male and female plants. Sorry to disappoint those who thought I was going to have a REALLY “interesting” topic this month. 😉

Late autumn blooms make this a winner in my garden

I’m not the most observant person in the garden…although I spot the smallest of insects quite often. This past week, I was looking out at the landscape enthralled by the beauty of the Baccharis halimifolia that I’ve trained as a specimen shrub in the front yard. This shrub had just come into full bloom and looked lovely against a backdrop of Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) and Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera). Later I took a walk in the back and I noticed two other pairs of groundsels. They are prolific bloomers and can be trained as a tree or a fast growing hedge, the latter my mission to block the view of some graffiti on my neighbor’s shed (drawn their by their own kids…OY!). Thus I have scads of them growing just about everywhere.

The paired shrubs seemed odd to me, distinctly different colors. One a creamy white bordering on pale yellow… the other, the bright white I described above. I went over to take a closer look and observed something else. The creamy colored one was covered in bees, Syrphid flies and wasps. The white one…not so much.

The male flowers attract the pollinators

Then it hit me…this species must be dioecious. It’s not the first dioecious species I’ve struggled to identify. It surprised me to learn that B. Hamlimifolia is in the Asteraceae Family a.k.a. aster, daisy, or sunflower family, since I don’t associate shrubs with similarity to Sunflowers or Daisies. While not a greatest source of food for wildlife, its preferred benefit is in the cover and the nesting it provides for birds in the openly branched stems. I can speak from personal experience that northern mockingbirds will successfully nest in these shrubs.

Northern Mockingbirds use Groundsel Bush for nesting

B. halimifolia has a slew of common names, including Eastern Baccharis, Groundsel Tree; Sea Myrtle and Salt Bush. I always called it Groundsel, but recently I discovered it called “Silverling”, this moniker likely given because of the coloring of the female shrub in bloom. It describes it perfectly. Beautiful bright white paintbrush style blooms that shimmer so as to look like silver in the sun. I’ve taken to calling the girl shrubs Silverling and the boy shrubs Groundsel.

Female Flowers look like tiny paintbrushes

It is native from Massachusetts south to Florida then west to Arkansas and Texas. These shrubs are extremely salt tolerant and also will thrive in standing water…such as what I have in the summer rains of Florida. They bloom when not a lot of other shrubs do, in Florida this is late in autumn, often continuing into the winter. Down here they can hold their leaves through the year unless we get an unusually long freeze.

The Groundsel Beetle Larva shimmers

This plant is currently being investigated for application in soil bioengineering systems to stabilize tidal shorelines because of its ability to root from a dormant, unrooted cutting. It does attract a beetle, Trirhabda baccharidis, which in caterpillar stage is just as lovely as the female plant at the end of autumn. The adult beetle, not so pretty, but I’m sure as tasty morsel, the birds don’t mind.

While not all that attractive, the beetle itself probably tastes good to birds

Back when I first moved out here, I tried for months to identify this particular shrub. At the time I wasn’t very good at it, having few resources. The leaves seemed to be different shapes, but the plants seemed so similar that I wasn’t sure whether I had one shrub species or two. Well, now I know why. Sex in the garden can be a fascinating if not perplexing thing.

Information from The United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service was used in the writing of this article.

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on November 13, 2011 at the defunct national blog nativeplantwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.

Wildflowers Along the Culvert

October is Native Plant Month in Florida.  To celebrate, I’m dusting off and republishing my lost articles on Florida’s fabulous natives.

Dateline: November 15, 2013*

There is a rich diversity of wildflowers that blossom amid the culverts that run along the sides of the roads of this rural community. November is ripe with showy displays of native plants that appear like bright spots in the landscape.  Here are just a few of the many that appear along my patch of heaven:

Helianthus angustifolius
SWAMP SUNFLOWER (Helianthus angustifolius)


WAND GOLDENROD (Solidago stricta):

AXILFLOWER (Mecardonia acuminata subsp. peninsularis) is endemic to Florida:

TENANGLE PIPEWORT (Eriocaulon decangulare):

SWAMP HORNPOD (Mitreola sessilifolia):


GLADE LOBELIA (Lobelia glandulosa):

MUSKY MINT (Hyptis alata):

SHOWY MILKWORT (Polygala violacea):

NARROWLEAF SILKGRASS (Pityopsis graminifolia):


ST.JOHN’S-WORT (Hypericum spp.):

The fall wildflower displays can always give the spring bloomers a run for their money.

*This  tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on November 15, 2013 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.


Skullcaps, Milk Peas and Mutant Sabatia spp.

October is Native Plant Month in Florida. I’m republishing some of my lost articles on the pretty flower species native to the state.

Dateline: May 16, 2014*

Mine all Mine! The Mutant Sabatia

It was a rewarding week in my beautiful wildlife garden.  I had two new Florida native plants in the form of wildflowers pop up.  I also found an interesting flower that didn’t follow the botanical key of any member of its genus.

Some of my best finds are on trash days when I explore the culvert along my fence line.  This week didn’t disappoint.  I spotted a pretty bluish-purple stalk of flowers rearing its pretty head.

I recognized them right away as Skullcap, having seen them a few years back in the natural areas of neighbor’s place two doors down.  The seeds finally floated, blew or traveled by carrier pigeon (more likely mockingbirds) and made their way down to my place.   There are several species in this genus native to Florida. This one is Helmet Skullcap (Scutellaria integrifolia).

I’m happy that this plant will provide prolific amounts of seeds. I am watching the lifecycle process to gather the seeds when “ripe” to be added to the back pollinator garden.  I may also sprinkle a few around the pond margins.

A hint of pink below the brambles

Next, I was meandering around as usual in the backyard, looking for bugs, plants or other interesting things to photograph.  I spotted a tiny flash of pink out of the corner of my eye, low to the ground.  I leaned in above the brambles to see a small flower that was obviously in the pea family.  Now, I have a couple of low growing hoarypeas (Tephrosia sp.) that change from pink, to white to red, but this one somehow looked different.  The leaves were a dead giveaway that it wasn’t Tephrosia.

Side view of Milkpea

I picked my foot up to trample down the bramble so I could get a closer look without my legs getting shredded.  I leaned in with the camera and snapped a few pictures of what turns out to be a new milkpea in my arsenal of wildflowers.  As shown in the featured photo at the top of the  article, I have a white variety called Elliott’s Milkpea (Galactia elliottii) (hey…I just realized that my Elliot (2007-2019) has a namesake wildflower…of course the milkpea was here first and has an extra “T”, but still, close enough).

This pink one is either Eastern Milkpea (Galactia volubilis) or Downy Milkpea (G. regularis). I haven’t had time to narrow it down using a botanical key yet…on my list of “to do’s” for this week.

Got a good photo of the bottom so I can key it out to species.

Speaking of botanical keys.  In educating myself about plants, I have quickly learned how important it is to figure out what species you have.  Learning just the genus sometimes is not enough.  One species in a given genus can be native and yet another can be exotic…sometimes even invasive.  From this aspect, it is important to confirm exactly what the plant is.

Don’t rely just on a common name; take the time to lookup the scientific names. Common names often are regionally specific. I have learned that some plants that I called one thing in New York have a completely different name down here in Florida, despite being the same plant.  That’s where a botanical key comes in. A botanical key gives a set of choices for you to make as you identify plants.

I purchased a key called Guide to the Vascular Plants of Florida.  Honestly, it might as well be written in Swahili for I often can’t make heads or tails of what they are talking about.  I added Plant Identification Terminology…An Illustrated Glossary to my bookshelf which has helped me considerably.  I hold the books side by side so I can translate. Still I struggle to try and compare and learn.

5 Petals, Yellow Star center with red outlin

Case and point: I was trying to narrow down the species of my Sabatia wildflowers.  You can’t go strictly on color, there is a lot involved in determining species and many have color variations.

5 Pink/White petals, yellow star center with no red outline

I have one flower that is solid pink with a yellow star outline in red in the center.  I have another that is pink/white with a yellow star sans the red outline.  Both key out to be S. grandiflora.

This is S. grandiflora. The stamens are the 5 curved things in the center and are made up of thin filliments with the anthers on top.

A friend who has studied botany thinks maybe there is some hybridization going on… crossbreeding of two separate species. This I need to investigate further.

Four Petal Sabatia sp., an apparent anomaly

The real puzzler was a four-petal flower in the Sabatia genus.  I won’t get into “step one” of the key…way too technical and I’m hardly an expert. Suffice to say that step one led me to step two that basically gave a choice of 5 or 6-14 petals.  (I won’t get into the real nit picky botanical phrases).  I was confused about what to do since I was stymied by step two in the key and there were plenty more requirements to narrow this baby down.

The thin green things are the calyx and there are 5 on this four petal flower

I checked in with a botany Facebook group that I joined to try and learn more.  There was some debate about whether or not a petal had been knocked off since there were 5 green thingies (calyx) on the bottom of the petals. According to the botanical rules of this species, there should have been five matching petals to go with the 5 green thingies AND five stamens, which are those little things that stick up in the middle of the flower.

There are only 4 stamens which are those thin yellow things sticking up (the anthers dropped away as the flower got older)

The missing petal theory didn’t hold water since a close-up of the stamens revealed only 4.  I was pleased that one gentleman who has considerable knowledge stated “I’d say it’s an aberrant individual”. At least I had enough of an understanding to know that something wasn’t “normal”.  It looks like I have this mutant Sabatia which proves that Mother Nature doesn’t read or follow botanical keys and sometimes she just provides something a little different.  Perhaps a “tease” to see who is paying attention.

The last day of the four petal flower

So, I plan on using the pretty four-petal pink anomaly as a sort of logo on my native plant related blogs. IT IS MINE, ALL MINE! Once again I paid close attention to the little things in my beautiful wildlife garden and learned a bit about Mother Nature in the process.

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on May 16, 2014 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.

In a Wildlife Garden, It Isn’t Shy at All

October is Native Plant Month in Florida.  Thought I would dust off and republish one of the lost articles on Shyleaf, one of the Florida Native Plants that blooms at this time of year.

Dateline: September 27, 2013*

Pretty flowers are attractive to many pollinators

I’ve had an interesting couple of weeks with Shyleaf (Aeschynomene americana). Also called Deer Vetch or Jointvetch, this plant is native to the southeast and Maryland. A rather aggressive annual…not a good choice for a small home landscape…it is of great value out here in cow country. It is recommended forage for both deer and cattle given its high nutritive value…that, and the critters find it quite palatable. Former occupants of my lot had a farm critter or two, so I’m guessing that is why it has dug its roots (so to speak) into my landscape.

Shyleaf is larval host for Eurema daira, Yellow Barred Butterfly

When I discovered it was a larval host for Barred Yellow Butterfly (Eurema daira) I allowed it to continue to grow in some sections around my place, which many think is a horrible idea as the seeds are prolific, to put it mildly. This doesn’t bother me a bit since quail, dove and turkey eat the seeds. I’ve had bobwhite quail stop by my place and doves are routine visitors. Turkeys are in the area, and I hold out hope that they will eventually be attracted enough to drop in.

Host to caterpillars such as the Pale-edged Selenisa Moth

It has also proved to be full of smaller life, so it is a winner in my book. I discovered this week that it can be a larval host for Pale-edged Selenisa Moth (Selenisa sueroides) since it is in the Legume Family (Fabaceae).

Green Lynx Spiders love it

Reaching a height of 3-6 feet tall if you allow it, Green Lynx Spiders (Peucetia viridans) will set up shop since they seem to prefer to create their reproductive egg sacs at a height of about 3 foot or so. I find that Carolina Mantids (Stagmomantis carolina) use it as a hunting ground.

Carolina Mantis thinks it a great spot to catch a meal

Additionally, this week I eyed an Ichneumon Wasp fluttering around…zeroing in on Barred Yellow caterpillar. The only reason I found the caterpillar in the first place was that the wasp gave away it’s clever hiding spot. I’m happy, as I now have a “before” for my regular “Before and After” feature in The Lily Pad that I edit for the Florida Native Plant Society local chapter. I post pictures of butterflies as caterpillars and as adults so people will know what they are killing by eliminating those pesky caterpillars from their plantings. People are often clueless when it comes to realizing that butterflies don’t appear out of thin air.

Integrated Pest Management at work

This plant likes moist soil and established plants can withstand short periods of flooding. For those in the Southeast, if you have a larger landscape with some out of the way space, this might be a perfect planting to keep the hungry deer happy and away from your more “dressy” shrubbery which would benefit from keeping their leaves.

Grasshoppers like the small sensitive leaves so the birds will dance in and out dining on those tasty morsels, providing a nice bird-watching show. That’s not to say that Shyleaf doesn’t host some thugs we’d like to keep in check, such as the Southern Green Stinkbug (Nezara viridula), but I sure would rather have them munching on the ever prolific Shyleaf than on my citrus.  The buzz of many pollinators also give this a thumbs up as a beneficial wildlife planting.

5th instar of the Southern Green Stink Bug

Not the best plant for all, but certainly an attractive addition for the wildlife in my garden.

Delicate flowers and sensitive leaves gives Shyleaf interest

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on September 27, 2013 at the defunct national blog nativeplantwildlifegarden
Click the date to view reader comments.

The Water System as Wildlife Habitat

A Black Racer has been hanging around the property this week so I thought it was a good time to dust off and republish one of the lost articles on these sleek beauties.

Dateline: February 2014*

Living in a rural location, I have an outside well pump and tank with a water conditioning system added.

Who goes thar?

This week as I walked passed, something swooshed and I spotted a Southern Black Racer snake (Coluber constrictor priapus) slithering through the hole in the platform that holds up the tank section.  I guess this is a perfect place for protection from the elements, but with opportunities for a free meal.

All settled in to the ready-made den

You see, recently we had a brief freeze, so I had to bundle up the well to prevent freezing pipes.  I use two moving blankets and a sheet along with some clothespins and a bungie cord to keep everything snugged up.  Two days later when we returned to record 85F temperatures, I undressed the pump and found that a Green Anole had taken up residence in the sheet…great protection from the freeze, I suppose.  And I guess the snake followed the Anole to the “Well Pump Inn”.

The pump bundled up for the freeze

There is the time I found a jumping spider nesting in the protective cover for the conditioner timer.  And another when I spotted a jumping spider dining on an invasive treefrog that would have clogged up the gears, had he not taken care of the problem.

Female Regal Jumping Spider (Phidippus regius) picked an unfortunate location for her nest. My attempt to relocate tho’ necessary was unsuccessful

Unfortunately, the invasive frogs still manage to clog up the gears and the result is a broken timer so that I now have to go out and manually set it to backwash the unit.  This is the second time they did it in…another $167.00 dollars down the drain…so to speak 😉  A new unit is on the list to be ordered.  Thankfully I can install it myself.

If only the jumping spiders could get rid of the invasive treefrog BEFORE they cause major damage to the timer units

I’ve had ants short out the electrical box in their quest to find a home and somehow a lizard got through the conditioner tube and screwed up the float that regulates the water…he didn’t make it on his adventure.  I’ve had friends who had lizards’ short out the electric box…unfortunately, they called a plumber before they talked to me.  I could have saved them some money by teaching them to clean out the contacts that cause the short.

This lizard was hiding in the sheet that was covering the well for our day of freeze. Happily released into 82F weather

I’m happy that I am handy enough to have been able to fix many of the problems on my own…amazing the empowerment of a Phillips Head screwdriver.  😀

So, the well continues to provide interesting habitat.  I suppose that I could enclose it, but likely, that would not eliminate the use as a fun, warm habitat.  This past week with the return of high temperatures, I saw through the shed window a swarm of ladybugs…another habitat for our friendly fauna.

Next day, he still seems happy

Critters will get in to small places, so it’s just a matter of routinely monitoring them to ensure they don’t cause a problem.  In the meantime, I will stop by the “snake den” to see what his plans are for the day.  Racers are egg layers as opposed to giving live birth, so it won’t be a maternity ward.

Do you have unusual places around your home that provide habitat?

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters in February 2014 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com.

A Leopard Is Loose In My Garden

The above featured froggy was hanging out on the end of my patio in a deluge of a downpour yesterday.  It was a big’un.  So big, in fact, that from a distance I thought for sure it was a Bullfrog.  It wasn’t until I zoomed in with the camera that I realized it was just a very well fed cousin, the Southern Leopard Frog and clearly the largest I’ve ever encountered.

Thought it was a great time to dust off a lost article on my early encounter with this species.

Dateline:  August 30, 2013*

This Southern Leopard Frog insists on being elusive

Meet Larry, a Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus).  This is one of the true frogs.  I don’t suppose that’s as opposed to an untrue frog. Or would that make the latter little liars?

Before I get accused of being a little liar myself, for all I know Larry may well be Louise.  (S)he doesn’t hang around long enough to let me get a good look, not that I would be able to tell the difference anyway.

Here’s a different one I nearly tripped over in the boggy part of the back yard

Strangely, this Leopard Frog has made a home, on land, under a Wax Myrtle shrub, in an area far from my pond, but close to the front culvert.  I see him every day, as I sneak over with my camera.  However, he is so well disguised that the only reason I can spot him is that he LEAPS high in the air and through the fence into some brush.

Back in 2010 they were the Rana genus but taxonomy changed.

He’s a pretty good size frog in the 3-inch range.  Fellow BWG author Donna Donabella gets his big chunky cousin the American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) at her place.  In northern reaches Larry has a counterpart, Lithobates pipiens, the Northern Leopard Frog.  I wonder if L. sphenocephalus accidentally steps out of bounds at the Mason-Dixon Line if he magically transforms into L. pipiens.

Sometimes they hang out next to the pond

Leopard frogs feed on insects, crayfish and other aquatic invertebrates.  This might explain why this Southern Leopard frog is hanging out in the front yard.  There are crayfish in the culvert and I don’t seem to have any in the back pond.  Perhaps he has a taste for crustaceans.

Their coloring sure helps them blend in with the landscape

Frogs are a welcome addition to the garden because they help control insect pests.  The wonderful sound they provide at night is just an added benefit.  If you have the room, a pond would be a great addition to your beautiful wildlife garden.  If you provide one, the frogs are sure to come.

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on August 30, 2013 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.


8 Steps to Prepare Dinner for the Youngsters

Fish Crow style, that is.

First, have two to three bird babies:

These are two of the three young Fish Crows (Corvus ossifragus) that I’ve been observing for the past three days.  While these might not look like babies, they are juveniles who recently fledged.  They still are very tenuous when attempting to fly and are comical to watch.  Mom and Dad are beginning to keep a watch from further and further away with each passing hour.

Second.  Catch a mole. Head into the front meadow area and look around for small hills.

Third. Whack-a-mole. Hold it in your mouth and beat it on the side of a Florida native Long-Leaf Pine Tree (Pinus palustris)  branch a few times:

Fourth.  Clean the carcass and test the flavor by removing the entrails (WARNING: video may be a little too graphic for some) :

Five. Call your baby to come to dinner. 

Six.  Make them say please.

Seven.  Make them lean back slightly.

Eight.  Insert mole piece into juvenile.



Half Hidden Beauty in the Garden

Lots of Bellas flying around these days.  Thought it would be a good time to republish one of my lost articles on this beautiful moth.

Dateline:  June 29, 2012*

A while back I wrote about diurnal moths, specifically the Bella Moth (Utetheisa ornatrix). To refresh our memories, diurnal moths fly during the day rather than at night like the majority of moths.

FINALLY, a close peak under those wings.

At the time I remarked how I could never get a spread-wing picture of this beauty of a moth. While the forewings are quite beautiful in and of themselves, to see the rich pink color that hides underneath really is a treat, but this moth rarely lands with the wings spread.

At LAST, I got my shot, but in a way it is a little sad because apparently this moth had some sort of injury. It was unable to fold one of the wings under when it landed. Mind you, this imperfection didn’t seem to slow Bella down at all. I still had to chase in order to get the shot.

a little blurry, they are hard to chase down with the ol’ point and shoot

The underside photo is a little on the blurry side. I don’t think Bella really liked the paparazzi chasing her (him?). Rabbitbells (Crotalaria rotundifolia) is the larval host for this beauty. A member of the pea family, it occurs naturally at my place. HOSTS – a Database of the World’s Lepidopteran Hostplants also lists Lespedeza spp. and Lupinus spp. as potential hosts in the USA.

There are other beautiful moths in the garden; the silkworm Cecropia Moth and Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus) come to mind but they are very much larger. I still find the Bella to be the most beautiful of them all and she can give most butterflies a run for their money. You can’t miss that fluttering pink low to the ground, although unless injured, you may never really see it up close. Still, it is mesmerizing to see it in person, even if it is only half.

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on June 29, 2012 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.