Dateline: May 4, 2011*
Generally, if you are a moth, I suppose sleep! But there are some exceptions to that rule and some are mistaken for butterflies.One in particular is a favorite of mine. The bella moth, (Utetheisa ornatrix), is quite beautiful and I’m supposing that’s how it got its common name. Unlike most moths, which are nocturnal, the bella moth is diurnal and flies readily when disturbed. A regular visitor to my yard, it is always found fluttering around during the day, although mostly in the section of my garden shaded by pine trees.
This species is found from Connecticut westward to southeastern Nebraska, and southward to southern New Mexico and Florida. It is more common in southern part of its range.
Rabbitbells (Crotalaria rotundifolia) is the larval host for the bella moth. The caterpillars start off eating the foliage but bore their way into the seed containing pods. Because most of our common Crotalarias are introduced weedy species and toxic to cattle, the bella moth plays a beneficial role by eating their seeds and suppressing their reproduction. The toxic seeds of this plant, which is native to the southeastern United States, are laced with pyrrolizidine alkaloids that also offer the bella moth protection from predators.
In flight and at first landing this moth displays it’s beautiful pink lower wings which I long to catch on the camera. Because they always “fold up” immediately upon landing, I can’t share that wonderful part of the encounter with these beautiful pollinators, but they do add beauty to my beautiful wildlife garden. What diurnal moths are at your place?
*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on May 4, 2011 at the defunct beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.