Last week a cold front barreled into Austin, dropping temperatures 56 degrees, from 88F to 32F within a 24 hour span. As the wind picked up in late afternoon and I was covering a few of my container plants, I ambled to our lone beehive, Bo-Peep, noticing that the ladies were heading inside, having finished foraging on that warm day, soon to be cold night. I don’t know if they knew that it would be freezing for the next few days, but it would make some sense that they were snuggling in for the duration of the chill.
On the entry board of the hive, this stunning moth was also ambling about; the bees ignored the moth, the moth ignored the bees.
I’ve seen this species of moth before, mostly in flight, but it was always too quick for me to identify. A Grapevine Epimenis, Psychomorpha epimenis, this moth species uses grape plants as its host plant, meaning that it lays eggs on the plants, the larvae eat the plant as they mature to adulthood. In one local source that I found, the author mentions that the adults typically fly in February, laying their eggs on the still dormant vine. My Mustang Grape vine, Vitis mustangensis, has grown along a trellis for a number of years and is courtesy of a passing bird, raccoon–or something. I’ve never noticed caterpillars on the vine, but will keep a keen eye out for them in the next couple of months.
This moth sports red spots on its wings, indicating that it’s a male; females’ spots are orange. I was able to catch a glimpse of the underside of the wing, too. I like the mottled grey/black pattern, black dots on charcoal grey background. What a handsome fella!
During my winter pruning frenzy, I recently pulled some of the grape vine, which I’m now regretting. Though there’s still plenty of vine left and probably eggs on the vine, I wish I’d been aware that the vine is a host plant. Next year, I’ll leave the vine alone until later in spring, giving the larvae time to hatch, eat, grow, and become lovely little moths to grace my garden.
As it became colder, I wondered if the moth found refuge inside the hive, or if the bees would have tolerated a cold weather interloper. Maybe they became sisters and brother during inclement weather. Or did the moth fly off, finding warmth and protection under leaf or branch elsewhere in the garden?