Color splash

September 03, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Several years ago, our town made a truly enlightened decision and bought the old Hewitt Farm to preserve as open space. The 104-acre gem features a mix of human and natural history, and one of my favorite walks is along the edges of a meadow that is now a mix of spent grasses and lush Goldenrods in full glory. Since a Goldenrod patch can, almost always, be a gold mine for insects, I'm forever checking out the flowers for all sorts of things, and on this afternoon's inspection trek, I found one of the most dazzling moths in creation. This multi-colored stunner, which is often thought, at first glance, to be a beetle, is an Ailanthus Webworm Moth, and it's an import, just like its preferred food source for its caterpillars. The Ailanthus—the so-called "Tree of Heaven" that, to invasive species biologists, is also known as the Tree from Hell—is an 18th-century import from China which is now found just about everywhere in the Northeast, and with it came this pretty lepidopteran. In a perfect world, Atteva aurea would be able to munch the Ailanthus into, if not submission then at least better behavior. No such luck so far, but one can dream. And if biological control results in an increase in these beautiful moths, that would be just fine.


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