The fluttering of many wings caught my eye as a breeze ruffled through the trees.
It wasn’t a swarm of butterflies, however. Instead I’d found a graveyard of sorts.
Nearly two dozen moths died here and despite months of record snowfalls, they were still more or less intact.
The trap, such as it was, had been made unintentionally by a moose or an elk.
Over the summer male members of the deer family grow antlers. The bony formations are protected and nourished by blood-rich velvet.
Although people have posited that males rub off the velvet because it’s itchy, some scientists say it has more to do with increasing levels of testosterone prior to the rut.
When fall arrives the males search for a young tree to use as a scratching post. The damage to trees and shrubs can be considerable.
The males run their antlers up and down the trunk to rid themselves of the velvet, shredding the bark in long strips and exposing the unprotected wood. The tree’s wounds begin to ooze.
What drew the moths here? Did they mistake the sap for water drops? Or was it the sweet taste of sap?
“Sugaring” for moths — painting a sugar solution on trees — is one way to attract and collect moths, butterflies and other insects. Perhaps that’s the answer.
I managed not to get any sap on me or my camera. The moths weren’t so lucky. They got stuck, literally and figuratively.