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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My Wife’s New Favorite Moth

Look, down on that plant!
Is it a tiny bird?  Is it a miniature plane?
No, it's an Oleander Moth.

While I was catching up with my robot and astronaut friends at Kennedy Space Center, my wife was making new ones of a much smaller kind.  Not only did she chat with a cute little brown lizard, she met a moth she’s never seen before.  This little chap is no bigger than your thumb, yet he’s got some beautiful coloring.  His body and wings display an iridescent green and blue color, and his cute little hind end is covered in orange or red.  And, as he sings in the ultrasonic frequencies to his mate, he’s got the most beautiful voice you’ve never heard.

He climbs Oleander leaves with the greatest of ease.

Some call him the polka dotted wasp moth, because he wears polka dots all over, and because he’s as slim and sleek as a wasp.  Scientists call him the Oleander Moth, as he lays his eggs on that plant.  When the baby moths hatch, they feed on the Oleander leaves, which gives them the strength to become pretty orange caterpillars.  This was something else that attracted my wife to this moth, as my wife hates Oleanders!

He consumes them faster than a speeding bullet.
(Well, he's not quite that fast, but he does find them tasty).

My wife is hardly alone.  Because Oleanders are poisonous to mammals, birds and small animals aren’t tempted to root around in the plants for the eggs, larvae, and caterpillars.  But that doesn’t mean that everyone likes Oleander Moths.  Far from it!  Other kinds of moths and flies, as well as Fire Ants and Stink Bugs, think the Oleander Moth is tastier than Filet Mignon.  Now, I’m not a steak connoisseur: personally, give me Top Sirloin or New York Strip, and I’m satisfied.  But when it comes to a choice between Oleander larvae and Filet Mignon, well, let’s just say I’d choose differently from the Fire Ants and Stink Bugs.  Then again, how many folks really get on with Fire Ants and Stink Bugs?

As she and the Oleander Moth soon became fast friends, my wife wondered if he could come back with us to California.  I argued he should remain in Florida, as his natural habitat is the Caribbean, and he might miss his chums.  He certainly wouldn’t want to visit the California city of Norco, where it’s illegal to grow Oleanders.  (Then again, if he likes Rhinoceroses, he could make the occasional visit to Norco, where a person can own a rhino, as long as he’s willing to plunk down $100 for the permit).  When my wife argued that she could keep him company in San Diego, I reasoned that, as we were both busy during the day, neither of us could devote quality time to the relationship.

Help us, Oleander Moth!  Free us from our imprisonment!
(What do you mean, this glass is made from Kryptonite?)

Seeing our dilemma, the Oleander Moth flew off.  My wife called him back, but he fought back his tears, and bravely fluttered off toward the gift shop.  There he found a friend of space travelers peering out through the window.  It seemed they were just as curious about him as my wife had been, and so he stopped to visit with them for a while.

Dragon Dave

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