Nature Post #5: Hawkwing Stealth Camo

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Sorry, combining a blog post with a Facebook part of a series of nature shots I promised–one a day for a week, now with a gap while on the road. And lots of gaps in the task list (so yes I’m up before 4a.)

And while on the road just yesterday, I stopped at a service station for coffee off I-40 near Hampstead, NC yesterday at 445 a.m. for gas and coffee.

You have to realize that every time I get around bright lights in a warm place at night it reminds me of entomology class at Auburn back just after the last ice age.

Most of my collection of 100 pinned insects came from under the lights on campus at the tennis courts, stadium parking lot or out front of a girls’ dorm (didn’t matter which–a fella might pick up a date while he did his homework collecting beetles!)

So there on the concrete near the door to the Zippy Mart was this beautiful hawk moth (also known as sphinx moth.) After much experience, I am impervious to the disapproval or disgust of strangers when indulging in my biophilia. So I whipped out the camera and took this picture.

If you are not familiar with this group of moths, by all means call up google or bing images for “hawk moths.” These stout-bodied swept-winged light-seekers are one of my favorites, in there with their kin, the butterflies.

After getting the image up on the screen yesterday after I returned home, I was struck by two things: 1) the remarkable camouflage pattern that would make this creature disappear against the lichen-covered trunk of a shady tree; and 2) the apparent pattern “flying” the opposite direction of the moth of a hawk. I’ve outlined this in red.

Now I have no idea that this pattern that appears to my eye would have any deterrent effect on a would-be moth predator. But if I was a bird about to eat this moth and suddenly for a split second I thought I saw a bird predator in the picture, I’d hesitate.

Ya reckon?

Published by fred

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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2 Comments

  1. I admire the camoflage very much. Your outline of a hawk? Not so much! My botanist preferences are showing, I guess.

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