When the sun goes down and flowers fold their petals for the day pollinators pack their bags and go to sleep. A new set of flowers steps in after sunset and a new array of customers takes to the air in search of nectar and pollen: the night shift.
The flowers that attract nocturnal pollinators don’t need flashy colors. They are white or pale colored instead, easier to be seen in the dark. They produce strong aromas that appeal to their visitors’ keen sense of smell. Nocturnal creatures such as moths and bats and a few exceptional bees are among the night flower visitors.
Very few flowers bloom in the dead of night. More often they open at dawn or dusk, when twilight makes the job of their pollinators a little easier. Think of morning glories, moon flowers, 5 o’clock blossoms or evening primroses. If you have some of these in your garden you may be fortunate enough to see their guests.
A very striking visitor of many evening blooms is a large moth, the pink-spotted hawk moth. It bears an elegant muted pattern of cream and dark brown, highlighted by pink spots along its sides and on its wings. It arrives silently at its goal after sunset, unfolds its long tongue and sips nectar while suspended in air like a hummingbird. The next evening it will appear once again at the appointed time and collect its reward from the open blossoms. You can observe it almost daily as long as the flowers keep blooming.
Some people fear and hate moths even more than they hate other insects. There are even those who consider them messengers of death. This is unfortunate. I wish that they could overcome their unfounded fears enough to appreciate these moths’ graceful beauty and their role in the garden as the partners of evening bloomers.
© Beatriz Moisset, 2013