I Google-image searched this moth pic. Could it be the elusive “Moustiquaire”? And what does that have to do with oxpeckers?

Silly me. “Moustiquaire” is French for mosquito netting.

Google Search mothI suppose this search result is a testament to the power of nature’s camouflage in that either my iPhone camera or Google image couldn’t detect this winged creature of the night but instead focused on the screen where it had alighted last summer.

Not being a lepidopterist, I’m still not sure what this moth is. With its scalloped wing and striated gray-brown-black pattern, it might be a once-married underwing (Catocala unijuga). They’re known in these parts of the Eastern U.S. and on wing in July, when I spotted this specimen. There does appear to be the slightest hint of this moth’s fancy-pants orange and black hind wing. Here’s a better version from Wiki:


Then again, if that is a telltale kidney-shaped “reniform spot” on the forewing, it could mean this moth is some kind of owlet. Such spots are called “orbicular.” A wonderful word in itself, calling to mind azure glass spheres and celestial bodies and the words of Shakespeare: “…In our orbs we’ll live so round and safe…” Not to mention Alfred Tennyson and his “wheeling orbs of change.”  I confess that I cribbed those quotes from my giant 2,662-page Webster’s Third New International  Dictionary, which weighs more than my two poodles combined. Speaking of which, the boys are pretty swell camouflage artists themselves.

I also feel compelled to share one more discovery from said dictionary. While I was looking up “orb,” the big book flopped open to another word that caught my attention: “oxpecker.” Once again, my naturalist’s curiosity bade me to pause and learn something new. For those who don’t know (or whose minds are perpetually in the gutter), an oxpecker is “either of two small dull-colored African birds (Buphagus africanus and Buphagoldes erythrorhynchus) that resemble and are closely related to starlings and feed on ticks which they pick from the backs of infested cattle and wild mammals.”

Funny, I must have watched every episode of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom a dozen times when I was a kid and while I certainly recall many cute shots of these symbiotic birds hopping around on the backs of water buffalos and rhinos, I don’t recall Marlin Perkins ever once saying, “Jim, watch out for those oxpeckers!” See what you can learn from moths?


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