July 26, 2020
Have you seen this moth?
It's a hummingbird clearwing moth ( Hemaris thysbe ), and it's mesmerizing!

You may see this rather plump, day-flying moth feeding on flower nectar from a (non-native) butterfly bush ( Buddleia), as shown in the video below from a Madison yard, or native bee balm ( Monarda). If you don't have nectar-bearing native plants in your yard, try visiting the Madison Community Garden, which has three plots dedicated to growing flowers for pollinators — there have been hummingbird moth sightings there.

Happy National Moth Week!

Recommended reading:

Photo at top left: Hummingbird Clearwing (Hemaris thysbe) moth by Eddie Wyatt. Video courtesy of Bridget Daley.
4 Ways to Take Conservation Action in Your Yard
Advice From Ecologist Doug Tallamy
Shrink the lawn. Plant diverse native species instead.
Tallamy says if each suburban home cut its lawn in half and replaced it with native flowers, shrubs and trees, we’d create a rich, bio-diverse "Home-grown National Park" 20 million acres in size.

Plant “keystone species.”
Among our area's most ecologically productive species —those that are best at making the caterpillar food that drives our entire food web — are native oaks, willows, birches, poplars, maples and cherry trees, as well as goldenrods, asters, sunflowers, strawberry and Joe-Pye weed.

Cut light pollution to protect moths, pollinators and other valuable insects.
Have you noticed there are fewer fireflies these days? That's because artificial lights kill insects diminishes their populations. So turn off your outdoor lights. Put security lights on a motion sensor — they’ll surprise trespassers and spare insects. Use yellow LED bulbs outdoors — they're far less attractive to insects.

Don’t blow away your leaves. Keeping leaf litter allows caterpillars to complete their development and become pollinators or food for birds.
Most species (94%) drop from trees or plants and pupate in the soil, or in cocoons in leaf litter. So "leave the leaves" when they fall, and create native flower beds around your trees instead of surrounding them with grass or purchased wood mulch.
Use the Native Plant Finder tool to search by ZIP code for plants that host the highest number of butterflies and moths to feed birds and other wildlife where you live.
Life as we know it depends on insects. To learn more about what you can do to protect and preserve our planet, watch Doug Tallamy's presentation "Nature's Best Hope." 

"Not only do (insecticide) cover sprays create potential for pesticide runoff and increased human and pet exposure, they actually create pest problems by suppressing predators, parasitoids and diseases that keep plant pests under control. It is common to see outbreaks of spider mites, aphids and scale insects where pesticides are used.”

—Michigan State University

Spread the Word:
What Neighbors Need to Know About Mosquito Sprays
The chemicals most mosquito spraying companies use are non-targeted and also kill bees, butterflies, moths, ladybugs, dragonflies, and lightning bugs. In fact, only an extremely small percent of what they kill are mosquitoes. They are also harmful to cats.

In run-off, these pesticides go into Madison's streams and storm drains — which empty right into the nearest water body and ultimately flow into the ocean — where they can be highly toxic to fish and other aquatic life.

Some alternatives for your yard:

  • Prevent mosquito breeding by being vigilant about eliminating standing water in puddles, flower-pot trays, old tires and other water-catching vessels (and make sure your neighbors do, too!)
  • Use Mosquito Dunks in birdbaths, rain barrels and water gardens — they're made of BTI, a bacteria deadly to mosquito larvae but harmless to other living things 
  • Repel mosquitos with beautiful and fragrant plants they detest — such as catmint, marigolds, geraniums, lavender, basil and peppermint
  • Foil them with an oscillating outdoor fan — the breeze keeps them away
  • Learn what other simple steps you can take to naturally prevent skeeter breeding, protect yourself, and encourage the presence of mosquito predators like birds, dragonflies, spiders and bats 

Additional resources from Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation:

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