Friday, June 22, 2012

Joys of Country Living- Part II

After my breakfast encounter with the Reddish-brown Stag Beetle, I settled back in the deck swing to read in the last cool air of the morning.  I felt something flutter on the back of my neck and got up quickly.  (I have been killing lots of nesting red wasps and I had a guilty conscience, thinking they were coming to revenge their dead kin.)

Osage Orange Sphinx Moth
I had left the deck light on over night to attract moths and an Io moth had settled on  the swing.  It isn't too impressive when it is folded up, but a touch encouraged it to open its wings, revealing its eye spot.  It is one of the giant silk moths that live for less than a week without eating, cruising around to mate and lay eggs.  Although possibly hungry, you will never hear their stomach rumble- they don't have a digestive tract.

While up, I started looking at the siding under the light fixture.  It had been a busy night, with several Fishflies and Dobsonflies and a scattering of small, nondescript tan and brown moths.  Two Assassin Bugs were crawling around, looking innocent but definitely hungry.

High up was another large moth, subsequently identified as a Osage Orange Sphinx Moth, Ceratomia hageni.  It is found throughout the Midwest from Michigan and Nebraska to Texas, any where its obligate larval host plant, the Osage Orange is found.

I find this range particularly interesting.  The Osage Orange was native to Texas and Oklahoma.  Lewis and Clark first noted it and Pierre Chouteau of St. Louis fame sent specimens to President Thomas Jefferson.  The tough wood and thorns led to its planting as a living fence before barbed wire was available.  During the Dust Bowl it was spread throughout the Midwest in the WPA Great Plains Shelterbelt project.*

This is a moth whose larvae can only survive on Osage Orange.  Now it lives throughout the Midwest, another example of the adaptability of nature to the changes brought about by humans.  Just another reason to hope for the future.

* More on this at Wikipedia.

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