His parents did not teach it anything. However, it dances elegantly, like a self-taught bird.
Its name: hummingbird hawk-moth (in Latin: Macroglossum Stellatarum L.) or insect hummingbird. It is a butterfly that is half bird and half insect. Its fascinating perfection can be observed during October evenings, prowling around flower boxes and flower beds.
Carl von Linné, the father of the classification of living organisms, remained uncertain face to this little phenomenon, curiously officialising it as “great stellar proboscis”. This name was popularly adapted as: bedstraw sphinx, fly-bird, drunken tongue, mad fly, starry sphinx.
This stocky-bodied butterfly-bird is covered with silky hair to protect it from the cold in the evening, when it is looking for food.
Robert Baden-Powell and its Pathfinders, when they discovered this aerial prodigy with an inveterate arm and surprising qualities, have quickly identified it as a living symbol of nature for youth. They made a totem to celebrate its amazing and powerful abilities.
Let’s talk about its designation as an Opera Star dancer.
This solid migratory butterfly appears in our region in spring.
It leaves before winter, heading south, crossing sea and mountain, sometimes ocean as far as Iceland, flying at more than 60 kms/h over thousands of kilometres.
Its frantic wingbeat of 75 beats per second makes it look like an acrobatic bird, impossible to photograph.
Constantly off the ground, it feeds, mates, lays its 200 eggs and does not rest much.
It finds its essential food, nectar, in geranium, honeysuckle, petunia and buddleia, with a preference for blue flowers such as lavender at the beginning of its life.
With its long flexible and hollow 2.8 cm proboscis, it gracefully loops trough the vegetation, visiting not less than 30 flowers per minute.
This incredible Formula 1 driver has chemical testers under its legs, which help it to find the right plant to feed its posterity.
As soon as it finds it, in flight, it let an egg that reaches the feeding target, a delicate lady’s bedstraw leaf 1/10 of a mm2 in size.
On the picture: the hummingbird hawk-moth caterpillar on lady’s bedstraw.
8 days after the egg is laid, a green or brown caterpillar is born, its body dotted with white spots with a spine on the extremity.
A caterpillar that will feed for a month on the foliage of its cradle.
The hummingbird chrysalis rests in the vegetation for 30 days before finally giving birth to the fluttering butterfly.
The lady’s bedstraw flowers (Latin: Gallium Verum L. ) used to give the yellow colour and unmistakable flavour to the crumbly English cheese, Cheshire.
This tall yellow perennial plant, with its sweet honey scent, unloved by men, attracts bees and grows in the wild grass around our homes.
However, according to the legends, it was mixed with the straw of the stable in which Jesus was born, so it is considered fascinating and magical.
With its name “gallium” from the Greek “gala” for “milk”, it was said that it was used in the preparation of curdled milk products.
Antoine Augustin Parmentier, pharmacist and promoter of the potato, denied this use through his experiments in the 19th century.
Known since antiquity as a medicinal plant, the lady’s bedstraw is used in various pharmaceutical compositions.
This fiery butterfly, with a stocky body of 2.8 cm and a weight of 1/3 of a gram, is a good example of the Roman precept “multum in parvo”, meaning “much potential lies in any small volume”, contradicting our hasty prejudices.
The holostatic chickweed is a wild perennial plant growing in the undergrowth whose leaves also feed the caterpillars of the hummingbird hawk-moth
See you next month for the continuation of the tribute to the distinction of the riches of the wild world.
And which, gradually, without our knowledge, as the seasons pass, retreats and fades away for good.
With the authorization of l’Est Eclair / Libération Champagne
Thanks to the sources taken from the interesting and scientific magazine “LA HULOTTE” of Boult-aux-Bois (Ardennes, France)
Headphoto © Schauhi