The Better to Smell You With, My Dear

by Stefani on 10-April-2009

Butterfly Brigade

Our Book of Days, Book 2, is heavy on the butterflies, and for good reason – they are SERIOUSLY on the minds of my men.

It’s all butterflies all the time around here, and when it’s not butterflies, it’s moths. 

Recently, our Book of Days time took an interesting and unexpected turn though – just the kind  we like. 

We found this gorgeous moth in our garage, dead.

White-Lined Sphinx Moth

My guys felt sure that he chose our garage as final resting place because he was giving his body to science 🙂

We marveled over his big hairy self and his intricate markings. We compared them to illustrations of moths in our Golden Guide and discovered that he is a White Lined Sphinx Moth. But that’s not the neatest part… 

The really amazing thing was when my middle son wondered aloud WHY moth bodies are hairy, and why often their antennae are hairy too. 

I love it when that happens… when you see that they are really catching on to something. My boy has learned that things in the natural world are usually the way they are for a reason. He has learned too that with some careful thought he might discover those reasons.

 First, my guy postulated that maybe the hair was to keep the moths warm. Makes sense, as they are usually active at night when it’s cooler out. We began doing lots of research to find out if his theory held water. We haven’t found out just yet, but while we were looking into it, we read about pheromones and how many male moths can smell their mate up to 5 miles away. Then,  hmmm…. people have hair in their noses (which they use to smell) and moths have hair on their antennae (which THEY use to smell). AHA!!!! The hair may help moths achieve those awesome powers of scent! Could it be that moth’s hairy bodies help super-size their olfactory prowess? 

All of this has led to no less than half a dozen bunny trails. My men want to know how to find out a moth’s body temperature. They want to conduct experiments to see how far away they can smell. They want to know how scientists track moths too. (Some of their theories on that one are hilarious – miniature cameras strapped to robotic dummy moths? Teeny tiny GPS chips?)

It is really so amazing to watch my boys developing their ability to question, reason and find out more. 

This whole hairy moth business was NOT what I had in mind when we wrote this edition of the Book of Days… but still, it’s EXACTLY what we hoped for – kids taking one idea and running with it, using it as a jumping off point to their own discoveries.

***edited 4/11 to add a note about the nets in the photos – instructions for those are included in Spring Book 2 of our Book of Days!  Happy butterfly (and moth!) hunting!***

Being Ever So Still

vermontmommy April 11, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Can you share how you made your butterfly catchers? Thank you! 🙂

Cassandra April 13, 2009 at 9:27 am

We haven’t seen any moths in our neck of the woods quite yet, though we have seen a few butterflies (at which point, Ember exclaims, “Look, mama! There goes our butterfly!”) We have had a little study on bees, though, which seems to blend right in for us. (I posted about it last week.) We’ve got some “fun with nature” books on the way to help us in our little quest, and with more time out in the yard as it warms up, we’re sure to find some butterflies to study soon…

anne April 13, 2009 at 9:43 am

So happy you started this BOD blog! We are loving our BOD and will look forward to reading the blog.

Holly April 13, 2009 at 10:08 am

Moths are the one insect I’m still allowed to kill with impunity. Mostly because I freak out, “a moth, a moth, what about my yarn?!”

I love the investigation your DS did. Wonderful questions.

“Martha Moth Makes Socks” is a great moth/knitting book. We love it.

Lia April 13, 2009 at 8:22 pm

You guys should take a trip to the entomolgy department at UT. I’m sure there would be someone there that would be happy to answer your questions. Plus, they’d probably let you look at all the cool insect collections. It was my favorite class in college, but unfortunately I don’t remember why they’re hairy. But you’ve got me wondering now.

Howling Duck Ranch December 31, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Cute! I had a moth just like that show up on my poultry barn this summer. I’d never before seen one.


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