City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

September 20, 2016

August 28th

Filed under: Cabbage White Butterly, Colors, Insects, Moth, Red-Rumped Bumblee Bee — canopus56 @ 11:28 pm

Thermoregulating Moths

7:30 p.m. Butterflies are now almost gone. The cabbage white butterflies have vanished. As the temperature drops during the day in the cool of the evening, moths predominate. A tansey aster near mile 0.7 is covered in bumblebees and twenty three-quarter inch moths with orange brown wings that are streaked with black. Moths are more active at night and in cool weather than butterflys because they, like their cousins the bumblebees, thermoregulate their body temperature by warming up through vigorous in-place wing flapping. In contrast, butterflies are ectotherms. They rely on the external temperature of the environment to regulate their body temperature. In the heat of the summer, butterflies can be found gathering at seep pools along the roadside. When the canyon reaches over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, ten to fifteen cabbage white butterflies can be seen standing in the shallow water. This cools them sufficiently for another flight. I reconsider consider this “just so” story. During the April butterfly explosion, there are no moths, but the butterflies have no problem moving in the colder spring weather.

Today the moths at mile 0.7 have large black eyes that are disproportionate to their head. The eyes take up three-quarters of their skull. Buddhism and Hinduism teach that I am looking back at myself – at another fragment of an ultimate reality or God-head. Science instructs that the moth’s vacant black discs are simple visual inputs into the biological equivalent of a programmable calculator.


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