Sunday, February 14, 2010

Food, Sex & Extreme Single-Tasking

I’ve been thinking about moths nonstop since I fell head over heels for Henrietta. She was, after all, my first American Dagger Moth. Since our short but highly anthropomorphized tryst I’ve been plagued with emotion. I’ve pined, wondered, what-ifed and yes, I’ve even dabbled in jealousy.

Henrietta is pupating right now. Snug in some stump, wrapped in a cocoon of larval hair, silk and leaf bits, she lies in wait for spring. Soon my beloved sunny caterpillar will be a creature of the night.

Somewhere in my childhood I learned that butterflies and moths couldn’t eat. They didn’t even have mouths. They just flew around trying to mate before dying. The search for love before death appealed to my streak of romantic fatalism. Yet I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the poor creatures. What if they got really thirsty before they found their mate? Was their flight through the damp night one of a wanderer in the desert?

I was all for dying in the pursuit of love but the idea of no mouth was unsettling. Not anymore, I can’t think of anything better actually. Nope, I can’t think of anything that sounds better than some extreme single-tasking. Eat for a few months. Sleep for a few months. Have sex for a few months. Sounds idyllic to me. Who cares if you don’t have a mouth for the final part of your life-cycle? It’s a small price to pay for a little simplicity.

There’s just one problem - what I learned as a kid isn’t entirely accurate. Most moths (though not all) have a proboscis and they use it too. It’s like a coiled up super straw they whip out for nectar sipping or sap sucking (depending on the species).

Ah well, we make mistakes and fall in love with fantasies. This Valentines Day I’m falling in love with the fantasy of extreme-single tasking.

* Readers are cordially invited to leave a Valentine comment for their four-legged, furry or flying loves. Are you harboring feelings for a woodchuck? Do you dream of a slinky fox, a goofy dog or a sassy little tufted titmouse? Declare yourself.*

[Henrietta's first post appeared 11/30/09. Want more? Check out Hot Moth Action on Zooillogix. Today's factual info was found in: Moths by Michael Majerus published in 2002 by HarperCollins; Butterflies and Moths by Mitchell & Zim published in1977 by Western Publishing Company; and last but not least Butterflies and Moths by David Carter published in 1992 by Dorling Kindersly Inc.]

Silver Y Moth Proboscis from David Kennard on Vimeo.


  1. My Valentine is for the broad-winged hawk who returns to my yard each year around April 1. He flies in from Costa Rica, fierce and exuberant, flushed with love and passion. He glares at me as I watch him begin to build his nest. He screams when I disturb him as he thinks.

  2. Sound like majestic magic. I'd never heard of a broad-winged hawk before! I found info and a pic at

  3. My heart is especially with the Whales and the dolphins around Kauai today! And I'm gona copy Henrietta and do some hibernating. Thanks to Dan S., a follower of your blog, I'm checking into the Berkshire Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain club! Yeah and thanks Annie.

  4. Ah, Kauai... it's almost cruel to think such warm thoughts this far north in February.

  5. i'll always hold a special place in my heart for red-wing blackbirds. the first spring we lived on the shores of lake wyola brought them into my yard in flocks, every day more and more would arrive. one day i tried to count them as they flew into our tall red pine trees, but once i counted to 30, or perhaps it was 40, they flew off towards the wetlands.
    every spring they stop by for a visit before moving to their nesting grounds in the wetlands, it's how i know that spring has truly arrived and summer is just around the corner.

  6. I love to hear the canandian geese flying over head. They are such "chatty cathies". I always wonder if they are just simply saying "this way, this way, this way" or if they are telling more elaborate stories?

  7. Erica,
    I'm quite sure they are saying something more, like "neiner, neiner we're up here and you're down there." But that's just me projecting. I want to fly. Speaking of geese, I recently read, "The Magicians by Lev Grossman." Very interesting YA along the lines of Harry Potter meets disillusioned spoiled Yale students. There is no hiking involved, but there is some flying.

  8. Tanya,
    Well bird's take the cake for Valentines this year! I was hoping that Red-winged Blackbirds were an eastcoast thang, so I could blame my ignorance on my status as a transplant. Alas, I was just plain old ignorant. Thanks to you I'll be looking out for the RWBB this spring. I found a great sounds clip at
    and lots of delicious little details about habitat and habits at