Every evening it seems there are more than the day before. As soon as dusk falls and I turn on the lights inside, the moths start to flutter. They enter through a few gaps in my screens, and it is hard to coerce them outside without inviting more into my light flooded room. I let them be and hope they figure out a reverse route.

Dark moths, most of us don’t pay much attention, but these nocturnal creatures are members of a large, incredible order to which all the butterflies belong as well, the Lepidopterans. These are the ‘scaly-winged’ creatures, referring to the patterns and colors of their wings that are formed by thousands of overlapping scales. The Noctuidae, the family to which my nightly visitors belong, are not particularly loved; now is the time they come out of hibernation and start feasting on alfalfa, corn, cotton and soybean fields. Unlike their cousins, the colorful daytime butterflies, these creatures are doing well, and the question is: where are their natural enemies, are they dying, just like the beautiful scaly-winged that are disappearing from our landscapes?

The changing colors of the wings are a result of light passing through the different layers of overlapping scales, known as iridescence. Whether as camouflage or to attract attention, the colors can be manipulated by differently received light, and a favorite spot to perch is then a sunspot on the forest floor. When I first read about the sunspot home range * of butterflies, while in Sicily, it made me smile. At that time I was trying to make sense of the relationships between the human inhabitants of the surroundings of my hillside residence that I shared with a big black dog. Tension was always palpable between the farmers and the cow & sheep herders who could let their animals roam free across the hills.

The butterfly, who can dance through this land, from sunspot to sunspot, unaware of human linear boundaries we are now so familiar with. It wasn’t always so, as shared resources, also known as the commons, were once more characterized by intertwined distribution. Not unlike the sunspots, that change throughout the day, the season, the year, creating this beautiful fluid home range, that is shared with many other creatures in the ecological fabric.

The straight line, the division of land often imposed from afar and above, with little consideration of the impact on people’s and other creatures’ lives and livelihood, meant to defer rather than invite interaction. The sunspots are still there, but the colorful butterflies no longer come in that frequently. Like many other insects they are dying out. It is a bit of a mystery to me why we, as humans, don’t realize this is a pattern for us to come if we don’t pay attention, as our lives are built upon and dependent on the evolutionary chain of creatures, all interconnected. Many disappear, while others see an opportunity to take up the void left behind.

That was it for the intermezzo, it is time to return to Homo rapacitas next time.

* A home range is the area in which an animal lives and moves on a periodic basis. It is related to the concept of an animal’s territory which is the area that is defended.

To be continued…