SCV Outdoor Report: A Moth On A Mission
By Wendy Langhans
Earlier this week, I was driving along a winding mountain road in the Angeles National Forest, in a hurry to get to my destination. It was early evening, a time when the sun-drenched colors of midday were fading to sepia. I could see the tall, white, spiky stalks of Chaparral Yucca across the canyon, as they stood out against an indistinct backdrop of vegetation.
I was struck by how brightly the Yucca glowed, radiant in the twilight. "So that's why they call them 'Our Lord's Candle'", I thought. "They DO gleam like a candles on a dimly lit table."
Chaparral Yucca blooms April-June
But I wasn't the only creature traveling through these mountains at twilight. The female Yucca moth, Tegeticula maculata, was also out and about, in search of the Yucca whipplei. The moth and the plant are involved in a symbiotic relationship; each one needs the other to survive. The Yucca plant needs the Yucca moth to pollinate its flowers. In return, the Yucca plant provides an incubator for her eggs and seeds to feed the larvae of the Yucca moth.
A close-up of a Yucca blossom
The Yucca moth sets out at night, gathering pollen from various Yucca flowers and shaping it into a large ball (larger than her head). Then she flies to another Yucca plant, climbs inside a flower blossom, and inserts 3-5 of her eggs into the ovary of that blossom. Next, she takes a portion of the pollen ball and inserts it into the stigma of that same blossom, thereby ensuring pollination and the production of 150-200 seeds. Later, her eggs will hatch into larvae that will feed on some of those seeds.
The Yucca moth has a tight schedule - three nights to lay 100 eggs. That night I also had a tight schedule, with "promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep". I guess we were both on a mission that night.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Saturday, June 13 and 27th, and every Wednesday, 8:00 AM. Trail Maintenance Volunteers at Towsley Canyon.
Come join our trail maintenance volunteers for camaraderie and a heart-thumping workout. For more information contact Steve Ioerger at 661-291-1565.
Saturday, June 20, 8:00-10:00 AM. Morning Bird Hike in Towsley Canyon. Towsley Canyon is a year-round home for birds. They like our Mediterranean climate, the local bounty and the California sunshine. Bring your binoculars and meet at the entrance. For map and directions go here.
Sponsored by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
Saturday, June 20, 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM. Open House and Family Festival at Placerita Canyon. Celebrating the re-dedication of the newly rebuild Nature Center.
For more information, including map and directions go here.
Sponsored by the Placerita Canyon Nature Center Associates.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The Hike Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.