Geek Out!

We were back to our usual bicycling shtick today. No marathon bike races today, just the two of us leisurely cruising about town. This weekend’s fall like weather also lent an air of ease to the day, contrasting last weekend’s brutal heat. We breezed through Forest Park, dodging students, strollers and most of Saint Louis. Everybody and their brother were there, enjoying the cool weather. We rode around Tower Grove Park, which was not near as crowded. After that we ducked down South Grand to the City Diner and enjoyed breakfast at the crack of noon. Apparently, City Diner has been named best diner in town for 2013. I’m guessing that this is one of the Riverfront Slime’s annual awards? On the way back, we stopped off at the gardens and ended up whiling away most of the afternoon there.

The gardens were as beautiful as ever and we snapped lots and lots of photographs. We had about reached my limit, while viewing the Kemper home garden, when I spied this most unusual creature. At first I thought it was a hummingbird. It flew like one, darting to and fro and then hovering in midair. Most of the other tourist thought the same, as it darted among the beds of Impatiens. But on closer examination you could see that it had six legs, not two, plus it had antennas. I’m no expert, but I don’t think that it was a bird. Anne identified it as a hawk moth, which seemed to mollify a family visiting from Michigan. This is what Wiki has to say about these moths:

The Sphingidae are a family of moths, commonly known as hawk moths, hummingbird moths and sphinx moths; it includes about 1,450 species. It is best represented in the tropics, but species are found in every region. They are moderate to large in size and are distinguished among moths for their rapid, sustained flying ability. Their narrow wings and streamlined abdomens are adaptations for rapid flight. Some of these moths, hover in midair while they feed on nectar from flowers, so are sometimes mistaken for hummingbirds. Sphingids have been much studied for their flying ability, especially their ability to move rapidly from side to side while hovering, called ‘side-slipping.’ This is thought to have evolved to deal with ambush predators that lie in wait in flowers.

While at first appearances these moths seemed to fly like hummingbirds, there were some important differences. Their wing beat rate wasn’t anywhere as fast as a hummingbird’s. This is why I was able to freeze its wings in some pictures. Also they seemed oblivious to us humans. The Michigan mom even touched one. The length of its proboscis looked enormous, but was nowhere near the record. Anne pointed this out to me after our also rather lengthy conversation with this family from Kalamazoo. Remember folks, I had reached my limit even before first spotting these moths. Anne explained to me that she didn’t want to come across as too much a geek, but she could have regaled them with a story of Charles Darwin, Orchids and Hawk Moths.

Leave a Reply