Kelly Schultz of Albert Lea shared this photo of a white-lined sphinx moth.
Kelly Schultz of Albert Lea shared this photo of a white-lined sphinx moth.
Rose Hood of Albert Lea asked about insects that look like hummingbirds. They look, fly and feed like hummingbirds, but are smaller. They are white-lined sphinx moths that hover over flowers.

The moth has a proboscis, a flexible tube that resembles a beak. This moth has a white line extending the length of its front wing and a rosy-colored stripe across the rear wing. Its brown body tapers to a point at each end and has dark bands across its abdomen.

Pete Steiner of Mankato wondered if these moths resembling hummingbirds migrate. The white-lined sphinx is a common moth that occurs throughout most of North America. It's a large, stout-bodied moth with a furry brown body crossed by white stripes and a wingspan of two and one-half to three and one-half inches.

The adults are primarily nocturnal, but will nectar in daylight. Plump bodies and small wing surfaces mean they must beat their wings rapidly to stay aloft. This allows them to hover like hummingbirds.

They are attracted to scented flowers. During the day, they frequent brightly colored flowers, but in the evening, they prefer more visible white flowers. They visit cardinal flower, columbine, primrose, honeysuckle, hosta, lilac, penstemon, petunia and phlox.

The caterpillars, up to three and one-half inch hornworms, are variable in color with a horn at the end. It isn't a stinger.

Host plants include apple, bedstraw, chickweed, elm, evening primrose, four-o'clocks, fuchsia, grape, purslane and tomato.

If temperatures are too cold for the pupae to overwinter in the ground, the moths might migrate northward. The caterpillars were used as food by Native Americans.

Echoes From Loafers' Club

"Guess what I did this weekend."


"Lucky guess."

Driving by the Bruces

I have two wonderful neighbors - both named Bruce - who live across the road from each other. Whenever I pass their driveways, thoughts occur to me, such as: why does the windshield wiper on the driver's side of a car always wear out first?

The news from Hartland

Old MacDonald quits eating breakfast due to excessive mooing, oinking and clucking.

Skunk wins local smelling bee.

Sheriff Hank Uft says that 50 isn't the new 30 when it comes to speed limits.

Ask Al

"Why do birds fly into windows?" Because there is no "Windows for Dummies" book for our avian friends.

"How can we prevent diseases caused by biting insects?" Don't bite any insects.

"I saw a cow with a bell around her neck. What's the purpose?" To keep her from eating birds.

Questions for you

When do you switch from wearing short-sleeved to long-sleeved shirts?

Do you say "caramel" or "carmel"?

Who is your favorite Rocky - The Flying Squirrel, Balboa, Marciano, Colavito or Horror Picture Show?

Cafe chronicles

I was enjoying a reflective meatloaf commercial. It was like a beef commercial only with meatloaf. What was most important is that it had mashed potatoes and gravy. And that it wasn't swill.

I recalled a sign I saw in Alaska, "Steve's Road Kill Cafe... you kill it, we grill it."

The sign in the bathroom read, "Employees must wash hands." I'm not one to complain, but no employee washed my hands. I had to wash my own.

I signed his cast "Ouch!"

My 4-year-old grandson broke his arm. He did so while playing football. He probably shouldn't have been playing, but the Minnesota Vikings needed him. Christian Ponder will replace him at quarterback.

When I was a wee lad and anything said to me was a "word to the whys," my mother told me often to wash behind my ears. I wondered and asked why. I couldn't look behind my ears and didn't notice anyone other than my mother looking around back there. I found it easier just to hold my hands over the back of my ears as I walked amongst adults.

Wasting hours without taking minutes

I was at a large meeting. The vast room alternated between being too cold and too hot. The speakers might have been in another ZIP code. The presenters passed out pencils and paper to the audience members so that we could write down any questions we might have. My question was "Do I get to keep this pencil?"

Did you know?

There is a Chinese law that requires children to care for their elderly parents, including regular visits and phone calls.

Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain in the U.S., has gotten shorter. It's now measured at 20,237 instead of 20,320 feet.

The 2013 Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival held at the Iowa State Fairgrounds sold out of its 8,000 tickets ($25 each) in about three minutes.

Alcatraz closed in 1963 for financial reasons.

The percentage of households with a computer jumped from 21 percent to 78 percent from 1992 to 2011. Landline telephones fell from 96 percent to a 71 percent share over that same period.

Mr. Potato Head was the first toy ever advertised on TV. That was in 1952.

The Chatty Cathy doll was popular in the 1960s. A string on her back was pulled, and Chatty Cathy said one of 11 things: I love you. Do you love me? Please brush my hair. What can we do now? Please change my dress. Give me a kiss. I'm so tired. Let's have a party. Please take me with you. Let's play school. May I have a cookie?

The Lumper is a varietal white potato whose widespread cultivation throughout Ireland was implicated in the Irish potato famine. Blight destroyed one-third of Ireland's potato crop in 1845 and almost all of it in 1846.

According to the American Dental Association, the average person produces over 6,000 gallons of saliva in a lifetime.


I heard a kestrel calling loudly.

It was an orchkestrel.

I watched green herons hunt. Silence, patience and grace wearing feathers. Approximately 18 inches long, this heron makes lures of insects, earthworms or feathers that it drops onto the water to attract fish.

I aimed binoculars at the birds. There is a sticker on my binoculars. It's a Duck Stamp. I've never fired a gun at a duck except in self-defense. Why would a man who doesn't hunt ducks and was once described as "not that goofy" own a Duck Stamp? Having this $15 Stamp gives me the right to duck in and duck out of National Wildlife Refuges without charge. The Duck Stamp helps birds by providing habitat. So if you bird, photograph, hunt, hike, or enjoy ducking in or out, this Stamp is for you.

Gullible dock

It was my great pleasure to give a keynote speech at the Midwest Birding Symposium held at Lakeside, Ohio, alongside Lake Erie. I walked on the dock at Lakeside as wind-driven water splashed against it. It was a dock over troubled water. A family was feeding hot dog buns to herring and ring-billed gulls gathered there. I watched as one girl tore each bun in half before tossing them to the birds. Cyndi Lauper was right. Gulls just want two half buns.


Dr. Leonid Skorin of Albert Lea asked when turtles reach breeding age. According to the DNR, common snapping turtles reach sexual maturity in five to seven years. Painted turtle females reach it at six to 16 years and males in three to 9 years.

A reader from Arizona asked the purpose of the bump on a pelican's bill. American white pelicans become sexually mature at about three years of age. Younger birds often spend summers somewhere between wintering and breeding grounds. Most young birds lack the horny plate present on the upper bills of breeding birds. This curious structure varies in shape and size. It develops in spring on adults of both sexes and drops off near the end of the nesting period. Apparently, it's a visual signal of breeding readiness.

Nature lessons

Folklore claims that if autumn leaves are slow to fall, a cold winter is in store.

In Costa Rica, I listened to the ubiquitous clay-colored thrush. This national bird begins singing when it's time for farmers to begin planting.

Meeting adjourned

If you are going to be caught doing something, be caught doing something kind.

Thanks for stopping by

"Did St. Francis preach to the birds? Whatever for? If he really liked birds he would have done better to preach to the cats." - Rebecca West

"We do, doodley do, doodley do, doodley do. What we must, muddily must, muddily must, muddily must." - Kurt Vonnegut


© Al Batt 2013