Friday, September 10, 2021

Moths and Caterpillars and Chewed Upon Leaves

Scarlet's never had her own garden before; she's alert to every nibble and discoloration in her small but passionately tended space.  She has a gardener she trusts, but he has his own ideas about what to cut and how to cut it.  She uses me as a sounding board - am I right to insist on this?

Late Summer in the desert has brought the moths.  More moths than anyone ever remembers seeing.  Not butterflies, with colorful wings and delicate markings.  These are swarms of brown winged insects, clustering around your face and arms, swirling about in my courtyard as I type to you.  Twenty or thirty of them are touring my front yard right now, some dipping down to investigate 2 feet off the ground, others circling the rosemary, looking for I don't know what.

There are some tiny yellow ones who have paired up this morning, dancing between the crepe myrtle bush and the river rocks.  Google tells me that moths are drab colored and encourages me to look at the wings when the beasts are resting - moths' wings are horizontal, not folded like butterflies'.  But these things don't seem to stay still for any length of time.  They are flying around, interfering with my walk to the mailbox, trying to get into the house when I open the door.

Coming home from dinner next door last night was an exercise in speed and agility.  We went in.  The moths (all but one) stayed out.

Google tells me that moths are nocturnal and butterflies are diurnal.  The moths here in Tucson have not gotten that memo.  I'm watching a horde of them surround the gardener who is raking the detritus from the courtyard.  Every scrape of his rake releases clouds of dust and sends flying things all around his scarf and hat draped head.

He doesn't seem to mind at all.  I am totally creeped out, inside and watching it happen.  I'm itchy. I want a shower.  I can feel them all over me.

Have I ruined your morning?  Imagine Scarlet, with her perfectly manicured garden and its nibbled upon leaves.  The caterpillars are so happy, with all the fresh greenery our record setting monsoon brought to us.  They need to feed in order to change into magnificent butterflies, and the damage they do to the plants is purely cosmetic.  The leaf miners, leaving their signature trail of white behind them, don't hurt the plant, either.

She was concerned, but I calmed her down.  It's the circle of life, and, sometimes, it's not as pretty as we want it to be.

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