You may be looking at a tree-eater. Or a crop-killer. There’s a Wanted Poster for this moth on i Naturalist. The automatically generated identification suggestions there included some kind of Army Cutworm Moth or Tent Caterpillar Moth.
The flower you see the moth pollinating? Not a resplendent chrysanthemum, but a lowly dandelion. A lawn-killer.
But close up: isn’t it beautiful? Its color, the shape of each of its plenteous petals, its stamens standing in the center, their curling tops like shepherd’s crooks. Never have I spent so much time marveling at what I too, have often regarded as a pest. Worthy only of chemical annihilation.
They were the next flowers to bloom this spring out at the Navarino Wildlife Refuge, and right smack dab in the middle of one of them I saw that moth. Who was working the very same flower for more than a half hour. Whose larvae may very well be responsible for egregious crimes against the Vegetable Kingdom. But who is, like the dandelion itself, a wonder, so big, so unperturbed, as “furry” as a tiny bear, its antennae so graceful, so long, its mouth parts and forelegs working to pollinate the dandelion. So the dandelion becomes a globe of insidious seeds. So the moth grows strong enough to breed an army of cutworms or tree-eaters.
Yet so beautiful!
Maybe their beauty is also in how they’re food for birds. Cruel beauty: all of this.
Not long later meeting the moth I met a hundred swallows sporting in the wind blowing over the Hansen Flowage. Another sight I’ve never seen. Oh sure, I’ve seen a Tree Swallow or two before. And yes, I’ve seen Barn Swallows, too. But I’ve never walked into a swarm of a hundred of them, riding the western breeze less than an inch from the wind-rippled water, dodging suddenly left or right or banking and rising at the end of the flowage into what was, for the most part, a silent cloud of birds. Like a cloud of electrons orbiting an atom. Like a cloud of mosquitos in those old Off commercials: a cloud I walked right in the middle of, the swallows so close to me I imagined I felt something exuded by their presence flitting often only a foot away.
It was so windy I couldn’t imagine there were insects strong enough to fly out over the flowage for all these swallows, and I couldn’t see any, but maybe some were hatching that day, climbing up out of the sun-warmed, flowage swamp to form their own swarm just above the water: a million meals for the fastest of feeders.
Dressed to kill, those swallows. The Tree Swallows were wearing dark green, shimmering silk over their purest white dress shirts (no ties), while the bluebird-blue suits of the Barn Swallows seemed more casual combined with their burnt orange shirts.
But when you’re the jet you fly, you can wear what you want.
At the end of the day, after having met the tree and crop and lawn and bug killers, I knelt among the anemones, who creep close to the ground, their leaves the color King Crimson Maples and Flowering Crabs, their often pinkish flowers blooming at the end of a single drooping stem as silent spring bells at first, then opening as pure white petals, distinguishing themselves from the needles and twigs and leaves and bark all generously contributed by the gentle trees in the fall: a natural, peaceful shedding of what was worn last summer, but what is now just worn, offered to enrich the earth, to bring forth the flowers of spring.
Beauty of yet another kind altogether.