Hawk Moths or Sphinx Moths
Hawk moths are experts at finding sweet-smelling flowers after dark. Two kinds of small moths (Yucca moths and the Senita cactus moth) actually pick up. Effect of pollinator-inflicted ovule damage on floral abscission in the yucca-yucca moth mutualism: the role of mechanical and chemical factors. In this poem, more so than in "March Song," the literal observations of nature The botanist's bloom becomes the moth's "daylight port or cove," another find healing solace from "our dark flights" in the blooms of the yucca plant. Ammons convincingly and brilliantly discovers relationship between himself and an insect.
A staggeringor more species of moths may exist, just waiting to be discovered. Not all moths are a drab brown or white. Many moths come clothed in a myriad of colors and patterns, some brighter than those flashy butterflies, and just as interesting.
Like butterflies, minute scales cover the wings of moth, making them slippery to the touch. Some of the largest moths in the world belong to the hawk moth or Sphingid family within the order Lepidoptera the animal order that includes butterflies and moths. These magnificent animals have long narrow wings and thick bodies.
They are fast flyers and often highly aerobatic.
The Yucca and its Moth
Many species can hover in place. Some can briefly fly backwards or dart away. Hawk moths are experts at finding sweet-smelling flowers after dark.
These flowers are highly fragrant with long floral tubes concealing pools of thin but abundant nectar. Adult hawk moth Manduca rustica with its proboscis tongue fully extended. These moths are super tankers that fly from blossom to blossom. They are especially fond of the fragrant flowers of sacred Datura in the southwest deserts. Image by artist Joseph Scheer.
Charles Darwin knew of the star orchids Angraecum spp.
Darwin was ridiculed by other scientists of his day for predicting that these orchids would be pollinated by hawk moths. After his death, hawk moths with tongues long enough to sip of the nectar produced by the star orchids were discovered on the island of Madagascar.
The Yucca and its Moth | The Prairie Ecologist
The caterpillars larvae of hawk moths are the familiar green hornworms or tobacco worms, familiar to gardeners who plant tomatoes. Since some hawk moths are minor crop pests, aerial application of pesticides to protect crops sometimes affects their numbers.
With the populations of all the sphinx moths affected by this agricultural practice there are fewer sphinx moths that pollinate rare plants, like the famous Queen-of-the-night cactus or the sacred Datura, which live in northern Mexico and along the border in the desert southwest.
Yucca moths depend solely on Yucca shrubs for their food. Each spring, male and female yucca moths emerge from the soil out of their underground cocoons and fly to a nearby Yucca. After mating, female yucca moths find the flowers and collect pollen from the stamens male flower organs.
Of Yucca Moths and Four-Leaf Clovers
They then fly to another Yucca and deposit the pollen into the stigma female flower organfertilizing the ovules plant eggs which will develop into seeds. Some Yucca can grow to the size of trees like this Yucca elephantipes, aptly named after its large size.
Photo courtesy of smgrowers.
After transferring pollen from one shrub to another, a female yucca moth cuts into the ovary of the flower and oviposits lays an egg. She may cut open and oviposit eggs multiple times into the flower before she moves on, which can build up scar tissue stressing the plant.
Once the moth larvae hatch, they feed on the developing seeds fertilized by their mother. The larvae consume only a small proportion of the seeds, leaving many seeds intact so the plant can still reproduce. Reciprocal specialization of the yucca moths and the Yucca has led to this relationship becoming obligate in nature; neither species can successfully reproduce without the other. No other insects pollinate Yucca. No other flowers host yucca moths. Close up of female yucca moths taking pollen from the stamens of the Yucca and making pollen balls to fertilize the ovary of another plant.
Photo courtesy of M. This dependence on one another has led to a highly stable relationship. If the moths were to attempt to take advantage and lay too many eggs in each flower, seed production would decrease, reducing the amount of new Yucca plants. This in turn, would reduce the number of hosts for the moths.
If the Yucca dropped their infected flowers and spent more energy on the non-infected flowers, there would be less moths and therefore less pollinators.