Do not delay. Now is peak viewing time in the butterfly garden at Mary Virginia Crites Hannan Park. Dozens of Common Buckeyes and Peal Crescents compete for mates and nectar in the Grapefruit Mint.
Skippers and Painted Ladies prefer zinnias while Monarchs, Eastern Black Swallowtail and Pipevine drift over the garden to nectar on New York Ironweed or the Brazilian Verbena. Hackberry Emperor butterflies prefer to sip minerals from human sweat and may land on garden visitors. Butterflies, bees, wasps and milkweed beetles are common garden insects, but how about moths?
Over 3,000 species of moths live in Ohio. They and their caterpillars are an important food source for migrating birds but since moths are known be active at night it is surprising to find several species of moths in the garden during the day.
In addition to being known as night-flying insects, another primary difference between butterflies and moths is their antenna. Butterflies have long, slender antenna with a club-like tip while moths have shorter, feathery antenna. In addition to antenna, there are other more apparent differences between butterflies and moths that visit the garden.
Take the Clearwing Hummingbird Moth, for instance. Due to its large size, appearance and flight, it could be mistaken for a Hummingbird. Its wings are translucent and, like a hummingbird, beat at a speed faster than my camera can capture and also, like a butterfly, the Hummingbird Moth has a long, tube-like proboscis to probe deep into flowers for sipping nectar.
Moths that are out in the daytime risk becoming a quick treat for a passing bird and to avoid this both the Ailanthus and the Yellow-collared Scape Moth are dressed in camouflage and hiding in plain sight. The Ailanthus Moth mimics both the color, red and black, and shape of the bad tasting milkweed beetle.
As indicated by its name, the Scape Moth has a yellow collar adorning its blue- black body in an attempt to pass as the Scoliid Blue-winged wasp, an insect birds avoid. The wasp has iridescent blue wings, a black thorax and a red abdomen with two large yellow spots.
Both the Moths and the insects they are mimicking can be found in the mint patch working the plants for nectar. You can decide how good the mimics are but, in my opinion, the birds are easily fooled.
So don’t delay, grab your camera and head to the butterfly garden. See how many visitors you can find collecting nectar and flying from flower to flower.
Monarchs will be tagged and released to continue their journey to Mexico on Sept. 21 at 11 a.m. Join us in the shelter house.
Ramona Edman is a Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist , a member of the Friends of the Circleville Parks and a volunteer at Mary Virginia Crites Hannan Park.