Summer Flowers and Visitors

The dynamic relationship between sequential summer blooms and insect visitors is fascinating, especially when the visitors are butterflies and moths. Like the invertebrates, I follow the sequence of bloom. But, I’m searching for rewards other than nectar!

Knapweed (Centaurea), dominant in abandoned fields and open habitats in July and August, is a popular source of nectar for bees, butterflies and many other insects. In good light, a macro view of the mix of vivid colors can be spectacular.

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Cultivated Phlox is a preferred food source for the Hummingbird Moth (Common Clearwing; Hemaris), but is also a good choice for attracting a variety butterflies to the backyard.

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Joe-Pye-Weed (below) and the goldenrods are breaking bud now, attracting the next wave of insect visitors!

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Photos by NB Hunter (July and August, 2018). © All rights reserved.

 

August Colors and Details

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Sub-adult Wood Frog out and about on a rainy day

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White-tail fawn foraging in cultivated fields

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Bumblebee feasting on Touch-me-not (Jewelweed)

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Teasel at ground level, the 6-foot stalk flattened by flood waters 

 

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Clearwing Hummingbird Moth on Phlox (1 of 2)

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Small pool of spring water that has quenched the thirst of 3 dogs during 30 years of trail walking

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White Admiral, wings upright and showing its true colors

Photos by NB Hunter (August, 2017). © All Rights Reserved.

Diurnal Moth in Evening Light

The Common Clearwing or Hummingbird Moth is very active now, searching the summer bloom for nectar. Monarda and Phlox are garden favorites, but I also see them in natural areas on a wide variety of species, including Knapweed and Joe-Pye-Weed.

Clearwing on Phlox

Clearwing on Phlox

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Daytime Moths

This has not been a good year for butterfly sightings in central New York. So, rather than dig into my archives for old butterfly photos, I’ll feature one of the few members of the butterfly and moth group (Order Lepidoptera) that I’m seeing daily, in the field as well as around the house: a moth that refuses to act like a moth!

The species is the Hummingbird Moth (Hemaris thysbe), also called Common Clearwing or Hummingbird Clearwing. These moths are very “unmoth-like” in two ways: they’re active during the daytime and, as their name implies, they look and act like tiny hummingbirds. In flight, the mostly transparent wings move so fast they’re barely visible. When nectaring, they hover, just like a hummingbird.

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Hummingbird Moth nectaring on garden Phlox, 1 of 5

Hummingbird moths have a long, tongue-like feeding tube (proboscis), an adaptation for nectaring on tubular flowers. The proboscis is coiled in flight, then extended for feeding.

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The adults are active throughout the summer and are most often seen in landscape gardens when Bee Balm (Monarda), Phlox and other tubular flowers are blooming. Earlier today I watched one nectaring on Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium), a wildflower approaching full bloom in damp meadow habitats

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Hummingbird Moth nectaring on Bee Balm

The larvae feed on a variety of woody plants, especially those in the honeysuckle and rose families (honeysuckles, Viburnums, hawthorns, cherries, etc.). They weave a cocoon on the ground, in leaf litter, where they overwinter (to encourage these plump little pollinators, a little benign neglect in the form of leaf litter around the edge of the yard could be helpful!).

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.