Did you know there’s a web site where you can post photos of butterflies and moths you see? No, it’s not Instagram, it’s BAMONA, Butterflies and Moths of North America. With Instagram around, why would we do this? Because it helps track our little friends, who are also very valuable pollinators. Some think butterflies are not as effective at pollinating as bees are, but butterflies can travel longer distances, ensuring coverage of equal amounts of flowering plants in a larger area. So, although they’re only looking for food (nectar), they actually help plants reproduce in an important way, on a larger geographic scale than bees sometimes. Moths also pollinate and are vital. I went over all this in episode three of the podcast by the way (the gardening episode). Posting butterflies and moths on BAMONA is also a great activity for kids. I caught the image above on a little Canon automatic camera in my backyard. I realized this fritillary was larger than the tiny ones that I sometimes see, grabbed my camera and got lucky. You can see my actual submission and another photo of this Great Spangled Fritillary here.
My latest submission to BAMONA is not a good photo–it was taken by my husband with his phone, outside a Chili’s Restaurant on a busy bypass road in Easton, Maryland. We think he/she was drying her wings, and we didn’t want to get too close and scare her. It was a huge Silkmoth, about the size of a coffee cup, although the photos don’t show the perspective of her size. By the way, at Chili’s Restaurant, I got the citrus rice, black beans and sweet potato fries, in case you’re wondering, ha ha! Anyway, outside this Chili’s, are growing several of the host plants for this gorgeous Silkmoth (the adults do not feed, but these host plants probably supported this Silkmoth when it was a caterpillar).
Caterpillar Host plants for the Cecropia silkmoth include various trees and shrubs including box elder (Acer negundo), sugar maple (Acer saccharinum), wild cherries and plums (Prunus), apples (Malus), alder and birch (Betulaceae), dogwoods (Cornus), and willows (Salix). Luckily, outside this Chili’s Restaurant on this busy bypass, are growing some birch trees and small dogwood trees. These are plants that were probably required by the shopping complex as part of the approved landscaping plan, and this really highlights the importance of local plantings at new developments. We’re already destroying large swaths of habitat with these developments, so a few plantings among the sea of pavement and sidewalks are the very least we can do, and we should be doing so much more. Anyway, a female Silkmoth laid 2 to 6 eggs on leaves of a host-plant tree or shrub, and these eggs hatched in 10-14 days, and the young caterpillars then fed on those very leaves in a perfect symphony of sustainability, especially since moths and butterflies then help to pollinate the flowers of the host plants. Then the flowers produce berries that support bird life, and on and on. And her work is not done, because the flight range for Silkmoths is Nova Scotia and Maine south to Florida, and/or west across Southern Canada and the Eastern United States to the Rocky Mountains.
Participating in posting and tracking butterflies and moths creates Awareness and Consciousness of caterpillars and who they become, and of the beauty around us and of how we’re all connected. Every life is important, no matter how tiny their earthly shell!
River Birch trees planted as part of the shopping complex landscaping, near the entrance to Chili’s Restaurant where we saw the above Silkmoth. Birch are host plants for various moths and butterflies.