Friday, December 10, 2010

Flying pearls

I hadn't been outside all day. I'd hardly even spared a glance for my backyard birds and squirrels. There had been too much work to do, some expected, some unplanned for. And here it was, 10 o'clock, pitch dark and raining to boot, and I was heading out to see what was afoot.

Nothing. Not even a slug, sliming its way across the wet pavement. No spiders lurking in corners; no flies or moths clinging to dry patches on the wall. Rain, the sound of drips falling into the bird bath from the rhododendron ... The rhododendron! All those big, solid leaves creating shelter! I flipped one over, and another. On the third, there was a gleaming white spot, just a speck. On another leaf, I found two, another one a bit higher up. I collected half a dozen leaves and brought them inside.

The specks were alive; several of them flew up and away when I turned the light on them. A couple stayed around to have their portraits done.

Looks like a moth. About 2 mm. long.

Side view.
The body is lemon yellow on the underside. The wings are like pearly teardrops; at certain angles of the light, they have the faintest hint of pink, especially in the two dots on the lower end of the wing. I think the wing may be fringed; I can't be sure. I was reaching for the microscope when the last one squeezed under the edge of the container I had trapped it in and flew away to join his family. I left the wet rhododendron leaves laid out on the desk for them to return to, but no, they've found some other haven.

Another one for BugGuide. And a heart for Clytie.

UPDATE: Dave (in the comments) beat me to BugGuide. He has identified the supposed moth as a whitefly, from the Aleyrodidae family.

Thanks, Dave!


  1. And look - those gorgeous moths are hearts! You make me want to go outside and look at my rhodies - though I've never seen these "flying pearls" before! Pearls definitely describes these beautiful creatures.

  2. how incredibly beautiful they are

  3. really beautiful and so delicate.

  4. Yes very pretty and delicate, but alas, a Whitefly (Aleyrodidae). You may find some black specks surrounded by waxy excrescences on the undersides of the leaves of the host. Doesn't look like a nasty Bemisia species, though, so that is good.

    BugGuide has an image from Washington State that looks the same:

  5. Thanks, Dave. Yes, the BugGuide photo matches, even to the bottom of a rhodo leaf it's on.

    I did see a couple of black specks, but no wax; of course, it was raining hard, and the wax may have been washed away.

  6. WOW... great shot. Thanks for Sharing


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