Underwing Moths

Nighttime flyers with a sweet tooth! (ironic considering they have no teeth at all!). If you plan to host a dinner party for them, a mélange of sugary foods and alcohol is called for.

August 9, 2010 | | Notes from the Wild

My neighbour Darryl is a BBQ epicurean whose cooking at this time of year sends delicious odours drifting through the slats of the fence separating our yards, leaving me salivating.

Underwing moths respond similarly to the odours of delicious summertime foods. These are moths of uncommon beauty and August is a good time to lure them to your yard. Not, however, with the smell of barbecued meat.

Underwings have a sweet tooth (ironic considering they have no teeth at all!) They also enjoy tippling – abstinence is unheard of in mothdom. So, if you plan to host a dinner party for underwings, a mélange of sugary foods and alcohol is called for. Here are some ingredients you might try:

  • bananas – rotten,
  • strawberry jam- or any jam for that matter!,
  • molasses,
  • brown sugar- lay off the white (let’s respect the health of our local moths)
  • corn syrup,
  • beer,
  • rum,
  • whiskey – your finest bottle of Chivas Regal isn’t necessary; underwings really can’t tell the difference.

Mix some combination of these ingredients together, cook it for a while in the noonday sun, and then paint it on trees as dusk settles.

If the moths do decide to avail themselves of your creation – they can be capricious dinner guests – you will be in for a treat. While they offer little in terms of engaging conversation, their visual appeal more than compensates.

Underwings are drab on the top side. For all their nocturnal flamboyance, they would rather not be noticed during the day. Their upper wings allow them to meld imperceptibly into their woodland homes. But at night, sipping on your sugary alcoholic concoction, they open up like a normally reticent friend after he quaffs a beer or two.

They spread their upper wings to reveal their glorious underwings, adorned with red, orange and yellow bars. One, the white underwing, common in the hills, turns up her proboscis at these garish colours, preferring a more sophisticated look of basic black and white.

As noted, August is a great time to tempt underwings to your yard, though different species are on the wing from June through October. The more trees in your neighbourhood, the better your chances of attracting them.

Don’t expect them to arrive immediately. Give them time to rouse from their daytime stupor and follow their noses to your yard.

About the Author More by Don Scallen

Don Scallen enjoys sharing his love of nature through his writing and presentations. Check out his blog "Notes from the Wild".

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