Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Unnatural Happenings in My Backyard

I believe this is the quickest I’ve ever followed one post with another. I’m sitting cross-legged at my writing desk in a thunderstorm. My hand is cramping and I would really like a snack, but I feel compelled to relate the following story.

Yesterday I saw a creature pollinating our petunias that initially appeared to be a hummingbird, but on closer inspection resembled a bumblebee. It had transparent wings with a brown border and a long curly “nose” like a butterfly. Rather than black and white stripes it was yellow with one large, brown stripe. I suspected it to be the lovechild of a hummingbird and a bumblebee, the result of a tryst forbidden by Mother Nature.

Later, chasing a plastic back across the lawn, I stumbled upon a second alien creature in the shade of the woods. I saw a patch of completely white flowers. They looked like wilted rosebuds sucked dry by a vegetarian vampire, a cross between a crocus and a fungus.

After I recovered from the shock of all of the disparate organisms breeding in my yard, I wrote an e-mail to my friend, an authority on matters of plant and animal identification, asking what they were and if I should fear them.

Before she could respond, my curiosity lead me to Google. First, I searched, “Strange hummingbird and bumblebee like insect.” I found this page. The seemingly anomalous insect turned out to be a Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth. Then I searched “Strange white and transparent flower,” and I got this page. The plant is called Indian pipe. It has no chlorophyll and feeds off of the delicious fungus on the dead leaves. It is also known as Ice-Plant, Ghost-Plant, Corpse-Plant, Plant-of-Death, Ominous-White-Plant, and many other suitable titles.

Later, my friend responded to my e-mail and confirmed my search results. My conclusion is that Google is the boy scout of the twenty-first century.


  1. when i first saw the picture of the hummingbird bumblebee abomination, i thought it was the size of my fist for some reason. now i've realized the picture was not to scale.

  2. You're thinking of the Mammoth Hummingbird Bumblebee, which also has tusks.