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‘Butterflies of the night’ are the essence of summer

July 20, 2012
By Karen Wils , Daily Press

ESCANABA - Like flickers of lost moonbeams in the forest, they brush against the cabin window.

They dance in the spotlight of the orange orb.

Are they tiny ghosts all giddy on the summer's heat?

Article Photos

Karen Wils photo

A polyphemus moth (bigger than my hands) enjoys the camp window.

Are they winged pests?

Do they flutter down from heaven to lull the wild world to peaceful sleep?

Moths - the butterflies of night - are fascinating to watch. People have been counting, collecting and sketching the Monarchs, swallowtails and viceroys for years.

Moths were always thought to be the butterfly's ugly cousins.

Dull and drab and destroyers of woolen sweaters and socks - that was the reputation of the moths. But not all moths chew wool or get into flour. In fact some moths don't even eat at all.

This summer (so far) has been an especially good one for seeing winged creatures. June bugs, butterflies and moths abound.

Nights at camp or in a camper or tent with the soft glow of light bring out the giant moths. Upper Michigan is the home of a few of the giant silk moths. These moon light dancers are very attractive and about as big as my hand. When one of these big bugs is drawn to your camp's glow, at first you may think it is a bat.

My daughter spotted the lovely, lime green luna moth a few weeks ago near camp. So beautiful and big that it doesn't look real, the luna moth is the star of the "lunnesta" commercial. In its larva or caterpillar stage, this creature feasts on birch, walnut and oak leaves before it makes a papery cocoon. As a moth, it does not need to eat - just dance in the moonlight and mate.

Tons of tiny beige and brown moths flit by the camp's window. Like the snowflakes of summer, they almost hypnotize the watcher. The world is warm, peaceful; and perfumed with wildflowers and the spice of elm, oak, and maple trees.

A giant one eyed (one on each wing) monster silk moth is about to visit the glow of the gaslight. The Polyphemus Moth's coppery brown colored wings has two bright blue eyes on it. Its feathery, fine antennae brush against the windowpane. Moths antennae help distinguish them from butterflies.

There's nothing like the smell of marshmallows on the campfire or a chorus of crickets. As the darkness of night closes in on the north woods, no matter how tired you arc, watch the dance.

The moths, the butterflies of night are the very essences of summertime. Fragile, free, colorful and short lived- enjoy the summer nights.


Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.



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