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Buddleia Isn’t Just for Butterflies

by Ferida Wolff



My husband and I planted a buddleia or butterfly bush in the garden under our dining room window three years ago. As it bloomed, we waited for it to attract the colorful winged insects that occasionally flit around our yard. Indeed, it did. We saw monarchs that year, their orange and black wings mingling with the purple blossoms. We stood entranced at our window observing them. My sister said that we would see hummingbirds as well but though we frequently checked, none appeared. We had not seen any hummingbirds in our yard before and didn’t really expect to see them now.


Tiger swallowtails found the bush the next year. Yellow and black wings with a touch of blue at the base added brilliance to the garden.


But this year we have discovered that the buddleia is attracting more than butterflies. At first we thought we had a super-sized bee. Then we noticed that it wasn’t acting very bee-like. Instead of landing on the flower, it hovered, its wings quivering like a hummingbird. When we looked closer, we saw that it had antennae and a tongue that reached out and sucked up the nectar. What was this creature? It wasn’t quite a bee and it wasn’t really a hummingbird.


We described it at our local nature center and was told it is a hummingbird bee, something we didn’t know existed until that moment. It had a bee body but functioned like a hummingbird. We were amazed and delighted and kept a lookout for the bee every time we passed the window.


In our vigilance, something else caught our attention. We were used to seeing moths on the buddleia; they, like the butterflies, were drawn to the colorful bush and the nectar. Only this moth was behaving funny, too. It approached the flowers the way the hummingbird bee had, with wings quivering. And sure enough, it had antennae and the long proboscis. Could it be a hummingbird moth? It was.


With all the humming going on, where was the hummingbird?


I was always on the lookout for the hummingbird but not having any luck in spotting it. I did see other intriguing things, though, like the hawk that landed in the garden and peeked into the chipmunk holes looking for a meal. There was also the time that a rabbit, a chipmunk and a squirrel (my husband said it sounds like the beginning of a bar joke) were all eating together peacefully under the birdfeeders. It made me wonder why people can’t seem to get along so well.


And then, when I was about to give up hope of ever seeing it, the hummingbird showed up. Flitting dizzily from one cluster of deep purple flowers to another, it stayed just long enough to take my breath away and then zip off. It was like an exclamation mark to my humming-creature sightings.


I could relax, now, knowing that it is around and may come back again. In the meantime, I am enjoying the frequent visitations from the hummingbird moths and bees. And keeping an open mind and an observant eye about what I might see next.


Ferida Wolff has been exploring the terrain of the self for over thirty years. She has an MS in Education and holds a certificate in Holistic Studies. As a teacher of Hatha Yoga, she helped her students focus on and listen to their inner messages.

Ferida is the author of 16 books for children as well as the adult book The Adventures of Swamp Woman: Menopause Essays on the Edge. She can be reached at or through her website


©2007 Ferida Wolff for SeniorWomenWeb
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