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The second annual National Moth Week starts today, July 20, 2013 and runs through July 28, 2013.

Why moths? As the news release says, in part:

Moths are part of the Lepidoptera insect order, but don’t get the same respect or admiration that their colorful daytime cousins – butterflies – do. Yet, there are hundreds of thousands of moth species, many as beautiful as butterflies, and just as important or more to the ecosystem. Moths also can tell us a lot about our changing environment by their geographical and seasonal distribution.

National Moth Week literally shines a much-needed spotlight on moths and their ecological importance as well as their biodiversity. The event allows people of all ages to become “citizen scientists” and contribute scientific data about moths they observe in their own communities. Participating in National Moth Week can be as simple as turning on a porch light at night and watching what happens, or going outside in daylight to find caterpillars and diurnal moths, often mistaken for butterflies.

To observe National Moth Week, we just might let some Lepidoptera visit Wild About Ants.

How do ants and Lepidoptera get along? Interactions include:

1. Ants are known to be predators of caterpillars and moths.

How do ants catch something that can fly when they can't fly? The answer is shown in this video:

Also, see Ants Use Velcro to Catch Large Prey at Smithsonian Magazine.

2. Ants also tend the caterpillars of blue butterflies, protecting them. More about this later in the week.

3. Ants scavenge dead moths that end up on the ground.

4. Probably a certain number of interactions are like this one, where the participants may not even be aware of one another.


 Sounds a bit like a lot of aspects of life, doesn't it?

Are you doing anything special for National Moth Week?


Do you feed your ants honey? It might be time to make sure of your source.

According to this article in Western Farm Press, the Chinese have been exporting a lot of honey to the United States and that "the laundered Chinese honey often contains harmful antibiotics, lead, molasses, fructose, farm chemicals..."

That last part caught my attention. I often offer ants a mixture of honey-water if I need to hold them for a few days or if I want them to hold still for a photograph. Even though the article is a bit, er, flamboyant, perhaps it is time to evaluate the source of the honey I purchase more carefully.

Unfortunately, just because the bottle says "Made in the USA" there is evidence that at least some of the honey may be from imported sources. Natural honey contains bits of pollen and investigators realized that by identifying sources of the pollen in a given batch of honey they could identify the area of origin of the honey. The smugglers quickly began filtering the honey to remove any traces of pollen. Now investigators look for the amount of pollen in samples of honey and if they don't find any pollen, it is a good chance the honey came from a filtered foreign source. This article at CNN names stores that were tested and the results.

Although steps are probably being taken to remedy the situation, it seems like it is a good time to establish a relationship with your local beekeepers.

The original report:

Asian Honey, Banned in Europe, Is Flooding U.S. Grocery Shelves at Food Safety News

It is not often you catch a glimpse of a stick insect out and about like this one I found basking on a wall a couple of years ago.

Members of the order Phasmatodea, these insects are also commonly called walkingsticks.

Why would I be featuring walkingsticks in a blog about ants?

Actually walkingsticks and ants have a very cool relationship, and it is one of my favorite stories to share.

Female walkingsticks are not particularly good mothers. When they lay their eggs, they simply drop them from the trees as they are feeding. This doesn't seem like a safe strategy for making sure the eggs hatch, but female walkingsticks are relying on the services of a nanny on the ground to take care of their eggs.

Walkingstick eggs resemble seeds. In fact, the eggs have a knob on one end, called a capitulum, which looks and functions like an elasiosome of a seed. Ants find the eggs and drag them back to the safety of their underground nest. The ants remove and eat the capitulum, but generally leave the rest of the egg intact. After the walkingstick eggs develop in the nest, sometimes even overwintering there, the young walkingsticks emerge and crawl away from their protected nursery.

David Attenborough has a wonderful discussion of this in his BBC video, Life in the Undergrowth:

Just think, we might not have some types of walkingsticks if it weren't for the services of ants. And you wonder why I'm "wild about ants." 🙂