Friday, July 1, 2016

Milkweed Catches Moth

In my last post I explained that milkweed pollination depended on an insect, or other flower visiting animal, snagging a pollen cluster, called a pollinium, from one flower and moving it to another flower.  Insects catch their legs on the thickened terminus of two pollinia bearing tethers and pull the pollen body from a slit in the flower.  The process is often a failure for both the flower and the pollinator.

This is a beautiful Reversed Haploa Moth.  I rarely get the opportunity to take my time photographing winged subjects before they disappear, but his moth wasn’t about to leave its perch.

I was originally attracted to the location by a frantically gyrating moth.  This often indicates that a pradator has grabbed hold and is trying to subdue its prey. 

Following a bout of fluttering, the moth would hang motionless from the flower.  A close examination of the situation showed no predator in evidence.  It appeared that one of the moth’s legs was caught by the milkweed flower.

This was exactly the case.  In the process of pulling free a pair of pollinia, the moth’s foot either caught on the pollinia tether or was directly caught in the flower slit.  The moth did not have the strength necessary to pull itself free.  This is a fairly common scenario that usually ends with the insect dying on the flower, or more typically, falling easy prey to some predator.

After capturing a few of the interesting poses presented by the moth, I pulled its leg loose from the trap and set it free. 

video
A short video for those who may never have witnessed the frantic gyrations of a trapped moth.  That foot must be really struck to hold fast against all of that exertion.

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