Pink Mystery, Solved

pink and yellow maple tree seeds

The very pink, very wrinkled tails of maple tree seeds.

Certain creatures make you wonder, how did you happen? Recently, I’ve read about katydids that show their warning colors after they attack; and flies that can’t fly. The answers are usually unclear (we don’t really know why those katydids wait!) or as bizarre as you might expect (non-flying flies simply spend their lives attached to bats — that’s all!). For my personal encounters, the mysteries facing me aren’t quite as spectacular, and likely easily-explained, but it is still fun and inspiring to discover some things on your own.

This sense of discovery brings me to the maple seed photo featured in this post. Naturally, I have seen numerous of these “whirlibirds” (or is it “twirlibirds”?) since my childhood, but until recently I hadn’t noticed that they can be stunningly pink! That’s nice, you’re saying, but…so what? The seed was the key to solving a mystery for me: why had a certain moth, Dryocampa rubicunda,  developed its unique look in association with maple? Perhaps you know it by its more cheerful name?

rosy maple moth with tattered forewing

A tattered Rosy Maple Moth


Naturally, it’s the Rosy Maple Moth! I had always wondered why a moth associated with maple trees would be one of the brightest shades of pink you will encounter on any creature in New England (or most places I’d wager); it’s not exactly a typically naturally-occurring color for anything much besides flowers around here. I had the shot to the right on hand from a previous post; not a perfect comparison shot, but I think it gives you and idea of what’s going on here.

So my own, probably obvious via entomological literature, little mystery solved without dry words and a small Eureka! moment realized exploring on one sunny summer day.


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