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A dinner dance
  1. I R Schwab,
  2. E J Warrant
  1. University of California, Davis, Sacramento, CA 95817, USA; irschwab@ucdavis.edu and University of Lund, Sweden

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    Flowering plants must attract birds or insects to help disperse their pollen. The attraction, of course, is usually nectar, but this must be advertised with bright colours and/or scent. The pollinators seek the nectar and usually cooperate, quite innocently, by transporting the pollen. Most insects, like bees, land on a flower, seeking the nutritious reward. Some few insects, like the hummingbird hawkmoth (Macroglossum stellatarum), however, do not maintain their end of the unwritten bargain. This interesting creature will hover above the flower, using an unbelievably long coiled tongue that may be three times the length of the insect to extract the nectar and cheat the flower of its pollinating potential. This frenetic Old World moth is a member of the family Sphingidae and is primarily diurnal. These moths have a remarkable hovering flight that resembles that of a hummingbird. They are quite agile and can even fly while coupled during mating. (Hummingbirds are primarily South American, are found exclusively in the New World, and also hover, but they are completely unrelated to this moth.)

    This fast flying and fascinating moth is common to European gardens in the summer and deserves more …

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