Cambridge Outdoors

playing, learning, and being outdoors in Cambridge, Mass.

Crawling Out from the Leaf Litter

I’m cleaning out one laptop computer in order to switch to a new one, reaching back into my digital leaf litter. What I found amongst hundreds of emails to delete was a two-sentence response from local entomology expert Tom Murray, kindly offering me a tentative identification of an insect photographed on my hand in December 2012.

female.cankerworm.moth.at.fresh.pond

Female cankerworm moth (tentative identification), Fresh Pond Reservation, 2012.

Alsophila pometaria, or the Fall Canker Worm Moth, was his best guess. They live in the leaf litter at the base of trees. The females have no apparent wings.

It’s not so important to give Kindergartners the burden of taxonomy, to distract them with multisyllabic Latin labels. But with Maria Montessori in mind, I don’t shy away from it either. Words have power, and the minds of even our smallest humans have more power than we think.

A moth without wings? That’s a game changer.

I can’t bring myself to delete the photo—though, indeed, it may be of limited use in our field studies program. Sometimes leaf litter is a gold mine.

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