With daytime temperatures in North Carolina ranging from 60° to 90° F, things have been pretty unseasonable lately.
In early July, the black walnut tree in my backyard started to drop walnuts, which usually doesn’t happen until September. Dogwoods in the neighborhood have started to change color, and a few of them have simply died. Very few fireflies have been active this year, and they’re usually prolific from June to August. Torrential thunderstorms with destructive winds have been punctuated by periods of dry, sunny weather that parches the ground until it cracks after little more than a week or two. All in all, the reality of climate collapse — which is what climate change should really be called — is indisputable to anyone with observant eyes and a reasonably functional brain.
Nonetheless there have been a few recent occurrences which are normal for this time of year. Tomatoes have been ripening, corn has been rising, crepe myrtles have been blooming, and sunsets have been breathtaking. There’ve also been an abundance of moths at my doorstep and on the trails where I hike. A few of them caught my attention and prompted me to take a few photos. Those photos in turn prompted me to do a little research, the result of which is the article you’re now reading.
Carolina Satyr Moth
This Carolina satyr moth (Hermeuptychia sosybius) was sunning herself serenely on the prolific vegetation bordering the Eno Riverwalk in Hillsborough when I went for a hike recently. I approached her slowly and did my best not to startle her. She seemed oblivious to the intrusion and carried on her business with the seriousness of a professional athlete, moving her wings to demonstrate the distinct pattern of circles and dots which characterize the Carolina satyr moth. It was a beautiful day, so I could understand her agreeable disposition. The area was probably also her home, since the grasses which predominate around the Eno are the preferred food for Carolina satyr caterpillars and make for a perfect nursery.
Harnessed Tiger Moth
A few weeks ago I was coming in my front door after watering my plants in the evening when I noticed the brilliant coloration of this harnessed tiger moth (Apantesis phalerata). The bands of black and yellow are immediately recognizable; they make me think of a bumblebee who was perhaps slightly confused when choosing his final form. In any case, I was glad to know that someone in my yard has been taking advantage of the dandelions, clover, and plantains — all of which are the preferred food of harnessed tiger moths in their early stages of development.
Walnut Sphinx Moth
When I saw this walnut sphinx moth (Amorpha juglandis) on my mailbox on a separate occasion, I very nearly swooned. This little guy was almost three inches across and looked much, much heavier than most moths of his size. Clearly he’d been munching on a tree in the area and had the gains to prove it. Additionally his abdomen, at the rear of his body, curved upward in the most striking resemblance to a scorpion tail that I’ve ever seen in a moth. Despite this resemblance, he was perfectly at peace and paid no attention to my presence, which gave me this lovely photographic opportunity.
So, despite the reality of climate collapse, these moths have found a way to cope. They might not be leading any protest marches or boycotting extractive industries, but they’re doing what they do best: munching leaves, growing fat, changing form, and emerging from their cocoons to spread the pollen of plants in a cycle of life that makes all of our lives possible.
And we should be doing the same. By taking care of ourselves, developing our skills and abilities, resting when necessary, and emerging from our cocoons to take action in whatever way we’re able, we can take the wisdom of the moth to heart. And in the process we’ll make possible a united effort to preserve the one and only home we have in this universe, our planet earth.
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