Sunday, December 18, 2011

Metalmark moths. More little known pollinators

Anthophila fabriciana. By Remo Angelini

So much to learn about pollinators! Huge numbers of moths, flies and beetles don't get enough credit for their jobs; the better known ones, bees and butterflies, get all the glory. So let us take a look at a little known moth or family of moths, the Choreutidae, better known as metalmark moths, not to be confused with metalmarks, which are butterflies. Both the butterflies and the moths get their names for the metallic iridescence of their wings.

They are small, no bigger than 10 mm (say, the size of your small fingernail); members of a larger group of moths often called micromoths. The wings are broad and square-tipped; this gives them a chunky appearance. The patches of metallic colors on their wings can be very colorful.
Saptha divitiosa by Bettaman
Metalmark moths fly during the day and can be seen often at flowers. They drink nectar with their long tongues, just as many other moths and butterflies do. Not much is know about their role as pollinators, but we can be almost certain that they perform this function for some flowers, considering their habits.

More is known about the mimicry that many of them perform with their peculiar appearance. The pattern of their wings resembles a jumping spider. They also move in a way that adds to the deception. This disguise serves them well; jumping spiders ordinarily prey on them, but sometimes are deceived to the point to behave as if they were facing a member of their own species. I have no pictures to put here, but you can see a spider mimic.

A few members of the family, called brenthia, strut around like peacocks, so naturally they are called peacock brenthia.

It would be nice to learn more about metal mark moths' role as pollinators. If anyone reading this knows more or has had the opportunity to see one of these moths in action, please, let me know. I will strive to find and photograph some of them next season.

Moths as Pollinators
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© Beatriz Moisset. 2012

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