Why hummingbird moths can be good for your aging brain

It’s been over 10 years since I discovered hawkmoths. 

Wikipedia photo from IronChris, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 Unported License
Wikipedia photo from IronChris, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 Unported License

Several funny-looking insects or birds were buzzing around, sipping from Mexican hat flowers blooming one May. Their wings were flapping madly, like hummingbirds, and their bodies were grey-and-white striped. They ignored me and kept sipping in the sun. I got a great close-up view but had no idea what they were.

What I saw is indeed an insect, often called a hummingbird moth because of its rapid wingspeed and love of drinking nectar. They are also known as sphinx moths.

Here’s one drinking away. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Recently, we dug in the soil near a concrete curb and discovered this second lovely critter curled up in the dirt.

Fat green caterpillar curled up with soils clinging to it
Fat green caterpillar curled up with soils clinging to it

In fact, the photo shows it encrusted. When I looked online, I found a match with the pupae stage of various sphinx moths. Before finding this bug, I never knew that some caterpillars dig into the soil to pupate and overwinter before they emerge as moths.

Learning about bugs can be fun at any age. I’m all for it! And Two Guys on Your Head say that thinking is good for your brain, especially the aging brain. Bugs are more interesting to think about than Sudoku, if you ask me.

Want to learn more?

Two sphinx moths that may be familiar in their caterpillar stage are tomato and tobacco hornworms. This great publication for gardeners from Colorado State University Extension discusses all kinds of hummingbird moths.  The Extension Service article points out that most hawkmoth caterpillars don’t damage the garden. Even the hornworms can be easily controlled. If your garden is small and container-like for easy care, can you say, “Grab it off your ‘mater and smush it with a rock?”

On the other hand, if you don’t like bugs…

You may not want to worry about wasps or hornets or ants or other insects, even hawkmoths when they’re sipping from flowers. You prefer a yard that is pristine and bug-free. So the exterminator service sprays around the house and up in the trees so no spiders can lurk there and spin webs you walk into in the dusk.

As part of an Elderyarding® design, I use a series of sensory exercises to identify your unique responses to the natural world, then use those responses as the basis to design a yard customized to you. While I am personally excited by bugs and other critters, a bug-free yard can also be just right to support aging well outdoors for YOU! Call me. Second Summer can help.