Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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... and their caterpillars underlie the food chain. But some of the article is just boneheaded.

In fact, moth catepillars are so coveted as a food source that they “live on a knife’s edge” where the survival of one or two adults out of a brood of 200 or 300 eggs is a biological accomplishment

So far, so good. If you want to have a big environmental impact, plant moth host species and night-blooming flowers. More moths -> more everything that eats moths.

Desert plants

Sorted by plant type

Flowers that attract moths

Night-blooming flowers

Moth gardening
Moths in your garden
Larval food plants
Nectar plants

Some plants that I have: apple, beech, raspberry, hazelnut, oak, privet, willow, comfrey, honeysuckle, marjoram, mint, daisy, yarrow, dandelion, plantain. I got moth cocoons on that beech just a few months after I planted it.

I typically grow cleome, impatiens, and petunias. I keep trying to grow moonflowers, and occasionally get vines, but the damn things have yet to bloom for me.

“The decay occurs over decades. You have to be halfway through your lifetime to notice something has changed. It’s been an almost imperceptible malaise.”

Maybe if you never go the fuck outside. Maybe if you subscribe to a culture that doesn't care about nature or anything else but itself. If you actually pay attention, you start to get inklings after a few years that something's wrong, and around 10 years you can be sure that it's not a fluke of a bad year or two. After decades -- where the hell is everything? Trees that used to be covered in butterflies have only a few. You no longer have to wash your car windshield at every gas station so you can see out of it. This has gotten so bad that even idiots are noticing now, but hey, some of us have been screaming about it for decades.

It is also hard to definitively connect moth or butterfly declines to avian ones. Researchers have noted, however, that insectivorous birds that eat adult moths, such as swallows, swifts, nightjars, and flycatchers, have experienced some of the most significant losses of all bird groups in North America since 1970. “It’s death by a thousand cuts—so it’s really hard to pinpoint any specific cut,” Wagner says. “There would appear to be a link, but we don’t have unequivocal data. We don’t have incontrovertible evidence.”

*headdesk* Let me give you some unequivocals: If you destroy the habitat that a species requires, you will have less of that species. Often it will be proportional, but sometimes you just cut in the wrong place and the whole population crashes on you. Birds and insects thrive in places like swamps, prairies, and forests. We have turned those into croplands and parking lots, which leads directly to plummeting populations of wildlife. If you destroy the food source of a species, you will have less of that species. That means any loss of insects will directly impact the birds that eat them. This time it's not proportional, because a vast amount of prey is required to feed a few predators, meaning the secondary impact on predatory species is always much worse than the primary impact on its prey. If only one prey species is lost and its predators eat many things, they might be fine; but if they only eat one thing, they will plummet, and if many prey species decline at once then so will even the least picky predators. Right now, we have massive habitat loss leading to crashes in insect and bird populations. And the more species we lose, the worse it snowballs, until the whole ecosystem comes apart at the seams.

Anyhow, it's spring planting season (if you're in the south) or soon will be (if you're farther north). Go save some moths.
Tags: gardening, nature, news, science
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