Day-flying_Bella_Moth_(Utetheisa_ornatrix) on Rattlebox Blossom (Bob Peterson, Florida)


Today’s offering is a creature I have never seen before on Abaco, or anywhere else for that matter. We saw it at the Neem Farm when we were looking for birds, butterflies and Spring flowers. I didn’t have moths in mind at all until I saw this one. For a start, moths are considered creatures of the night, so midday would not be an auspicious time for moth-hunting. As it turns out, the moth we found is, most unusually, active in day-time (‘diurnal’). 

Bella Moth, Neem Farm, Abaco (Keith Salvesen) 1

The BELLA MOTH Utetheisa ornatrix is also known as the ‘ornate moth’ or ‘rattlebox moth’ (after its favourite plant Crotalaria  – me neither). The one we saw was pink, with bright pink showing on the wings in flight. However these moths come in other vivid colours ranging from pink to red or orange, and yellow to white. Their black wing markings have many patterns.

Bella Moth, Neem Farm, Abaco (Keith Salvesen) 2

The bright coloration is, as in many species, nature’s way of saying ‘leave me alone’ and in particular, ‘I am very unpleasant to eat’. It is called APOSEMATISM.  Quite simply, the larvae feed on plants that contain poisonous alkaloids – in particular the yellow rattlebox plant Crotalaria, rendering them, as adult moths, extremely unpalatable. Bella adults may cannibalise eggs, pupae or larvae to counter alkaloid deficiency. Bella Moth, Neem Farm, Abaco (Keith Salvesen) 4


  • Sexual encounters are dictated by females, who compete with other females for males
  • Females seeking to mate always outnumber available males
  • A female bella will release powerful pheromones at dusk to lure males
  • Related females uniquely engage in collective pheromone release
  • This is termed “female pheromonal chorusing”
  • Several males will give the female chemical ‘nuptial gifts’ of poison and sperm
  • The female chooses the best of her suitors, and copulates with 4 or 5 of them
  • The whole process of copulation may take up to 12 hours…
  • In some way I don’t understand, she is then able to select her preferred sperm
  • Humans: do not try any of this at home, in the office, in Maccy Ds or when driving

Ornate_moth_(Utetheisa_ornatrix) Charles J Sharp wiki

Utetheisa_ornatrix (Dumi, Jamaica)

Credits: Header (on rattlebox blossom Crotalaria), Bob Peterson; 3 frankly rather feeble photos RH & Mrs RH; sharp photo by Charles J Sharp; open wings by Dumi


Bees at Delphi Abaco 1


This post concerns the bees of Abaco, with little or no apology for the cultural cross-reference to the dread mid-70’s musical era. If you wish to experience the full horror, scroll straight to the bottom of the page and relive those heady days of Barry, Robin & Maurice… 

The bees on Abaco south of Marsh Harbour are mostly wild. The header photo shows the West Indian Woodpecker nest box near the skiff park at Delphi that has become the exclusive residence of bees. They have a profusion of flowers in the Delphi Club gardens to choose from, but it is not practical to keep hives for them. So they are left to do their own thing. Here they were last month, being busy.

Bees at Delphi Abaco 2

During the past year I have found 2 places between Delphi and MH that keep hives. One is PEPPER POT FARMS – click the name to reach their FB page. You can get their honey direct or in MH for $6.75 a pot. I enjoyed their evidence of why bees are called ‘workers’…


  • Bees must visit approximately 2 million flowers to make 1 lb. of honey. 
  • Bees have to fly over 55,000 miles to make 1 lb. of honey. 
  • On average a worker bee will make 1/12 teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. 
  • Two tablespoons of honey would fuel a honey bee flying once around the world.
  • Honey bees will visit between 50-100 flowers during one nectar collection trip.


The other place with hives is ABACO NEEM FARMS, the base for the production of the stock at the Abaco Neem shop on the way into MH from the roundabout . The owner Nick has installed 2 hives which we had a look at when we took up his invitation to bird-watch there. It is something of a birding hotspot, benefitting from pine woods, coppice, fruit trees and open land over a large area. 

Abaco Neem Farm Hives 1Abaco Neem Farm Hives 2Abaco Neem Farm Hives 3

There was plenty of bee action around the hives on a warm sunny day and plenty of plants for them to feed from. We watched them come and go, the returning bees having filled their trouser pockets with pollen.Abaco Neem Farm Hives 4 Abaco Neem Farm Hives 5

There are both cultivated and wild flowers all over the place, with bees feasting on plants and fruit trees of many kinds. I liked the bright flower chosen by this bee. Abaco Neem Farm Hives 6

I’ll be posting more about the birds and plants of the Neem Farm in a while. Meanwhile, here are a couple of links to previous relevant links.



Finally, here is your chance to roll back the years with the Brothers Gibb. And below it, an excellent corrective!

This excellent Bee Gee parody by the “Hee Bee Gee Bees” called “Meaningless Songs in Very High Voices” is live from Sweden. Well, it still makes me laugh anyway (they also ripped off and ripped into Bowie, Jackson, The Police, Status Quo & many more).


Atala Hairstreak Butterfly, Abaco 7


It’s hard to resist another fly-past for the Atala Hairstreak Butterfly Eumaeus Atala . So I won’t. Once seen, never forgotten. They are small wonders, with their plump orange abdomens and their striking blue-dotted motif; obvious candidates for a signature Rolling Harbour logo for insect posts.

Atala Hairstreak Logo

Atala Hairstreak Butterfly, Abaco 1Atala Hairstreak Butterfly, Abaco 4Atala Hairstreak Butterfly, Abaco 2

This close-up in particular shows clearly that the vivid blue markings are not confined to the Atala’s wings. They are also on the body, the head, and surprisingly on the legs as well.Atala Hairstreak Butterfly, Abaco 6

It is rare to see the inside of an Atala’s wings. In flight they tend just to look black; then they land with precision and closed wings (zeugma score!). In sunshine the spots of the feeding Atala shine out like small LEDs. They very rarely open their wing to reveal the velvety blue upper sides.As I watched the single Atala, a second one arrived and almost immediately ‘jumped’ the first. By which I mean that, for a few seconds, the new arrival ‘covered’ the feeding Atala in every sense of the word. Please consider this a blurry study of the upper side of an Atala’s wings, and politely ignore the intrusive circumstances. This is not a scandal blog. Yet. Mere moments later, it was all over **. I made my excuses and left.Atala Hairstreak Butterfly, Abaco 3

These events may have piqued your interest in the life cycle of the Atala. Some months ago I posted in detail about this, with the whole process illustrated from eggs, larvae, caterpillar and chrysalis to the emergent butterfly. At the end of the post are some helpful links. CLICK LIFECYCLE OF THE ATALA HAIRSTREAK

Finally, you may want to get a sense of size for this butterfly – crops and zooms can sometimes give a distorted impression. So here is a normal snap of the butterfly feeding.Atala Hairstreak, Abaco 9

**My spam box is full of suggestions about this

Image credit for open-wing shot on flower: Stranica


Abaco bees 9


There are a number of insects on Abaco that demand human attention. The smallest and most persistent nuisances are the ‘no-see-ums’, tiny sandflies whose near-invisible size belies the effects of their bite. They seem impervious to many standard types of insect repellent. Different things work for different people. My method is to eat marmite (cf vegemite) on plain biscuits daily for 2 weeks before a visit to Abaco, and that does the trick. This year, I had a single bite (of course, if you hate marmite you’ll need another plan). See RECOMMENDED LINKS in the SIDEBAR under SAND FLY  for more on this topic.

There’s a form of yellowish horsefly that can give you a bit of a nip. At the top end of the pain and discomfort scale is the PEPSIS WASP (Tarantula Hawk). I’ve only ever seen one, and if you do come across one be sure not to disrespect it (click link to see why…). 

Until recently, I can’t say I’d ever noticed bees on Abaco. There are plenty of wonderful flowers that are visited for their nectar by the many species of butterfly and  various kinds of bird (hummingbirds, bananaquits). Then, last month, I heard a distinct buzzing in a bush. Bees. Lots of them. I took a few photos, some of which are shown below. Then I began to notice them elsewhere. Everywhere. Compared to the european bees that I am familiar with (check out my BEE GALLERY), Abaco bees are much smaller – see how they look on the individual flower heads in the first few photos. These little creatures were constantly on the move. No sooner had one settled on a flower, than it moved on to the next one…

I kept an eye out for bumble bees, but saw none – indeed, I’m not certain there are any bumble species in the (northern) Bahamas, and I have found no references to their existence. Enlightenment on this topic welcome via the comment box.

Abaco bees 1Abaco bees 2 Abaco bees 3There was plenty of pollen for the bees, though not all of it went into their what’s-the-correct-word-for-their-pouches (EST the Beekeper please can you help here?)Abaco bees 5However most were managing to harvest impressive quantities to take back to the hive. It’s worth saying that these are all wild bees. I know of only one honey-producer in South Abaco (south of Marsh Harbour).Abaco bees 6 Abaco bees 7A successful foraging expedition… somewhat surprisingly this bee was still able to take off…Abaco bees 8This is my favourite photo: there’s something about the expression on that little face that says “Ooooo. More good stuff in this one….”Abaco bees 9

Wild bees find a novel use for a woodpecker nesting box Bees in bird nest box 1


About a year ago, Sandy Walker encountered a praying mantis at the Delphi Club. For technical reasons his photo(s) of it didn’t work out. Undaunted (and because I’d never seen one outside an insectarium) I turned an essentially non-event into a short post SANDY’S PRAYING MANTIS, in the course of which I learnt a bit about these strange creatures. There isn’t a great deal of compelling information to pass on, to be honest. And I still don’t buy their supposed resemblance (for the sober observer) to Eleuthera.

We saw no mantises this summer on Abaco, and I forgot about them completely until a week ago… And there, nonchalantly strolling across an outdoor table where we were staying for a few days in Italy, was the very creature. It obligingly posed for some prayerful snaps, then I put it gently on a balcony railing where it clung upside down and apparently content overnight. It was still there at breakfast, gone by lunchtime, and we never saw it again. But the images live on…*

Please note that the fingerprints in photo 1 are copyright…