Tag Archives: moths

The Moth and Me #3

Here it is, a tad late! I am visiting my parents this weekend, and ran into internet trouble. I’m sure that Murphy has a cousin who is responsible for the inevitability that if you have a deadline on something computer-related, there will be some sort of issue that will prevent you from meeting that deadline. It seems to happen to me too often for it simply to be coincidence. Or perhaps you just notice and remember those occasions more than the times where something happened but you weren’t up against any pressing deadlines. Or where you were up against a deadline but nothing happened.

7746 - Automeris io - Io Moth (2)
Io Moth, Automeris io

Regardless, here it is now! Spring is moving along at breakneck pace here in the north, and the moths are really beginning to appear in numbers. A good warm night can see the sheet covered in small furry bodies, and the trap stuffed with exciting things.

Just recently, for instance, I’ve started seeing the big silk moths and sphinx moths out flying in the evening, and have even turned up a few in the trap, such as the stunning male Io Moth above. I’ve posted a few of my most recent catch over at my own blog.

In the southern hemisphere, the season is wrapping up. Back in April, when moths were still fairly abundant, Duncan of Ben Cruachan blogged about some of the variety of moths he was seeing in his local patch of Victoria, Australia, and invited readers to join the obsession.

If Ben’s moths weren’t enough to hook you, swing by BunyipCo to check out an assortment of awesome Tiger Moths of Queensland, Australia. Although the stereotypical North American tiger moth is striped peachy-orange and black like its namesake, they actually come in a great variety of colours and shapes.

In another part of the continent, William at Esperance Fauna shares his encounter with a Southern Old Lady Moth, a large, lovely fawn-coloured species.

If you want a really big moth, though, head over to Ugly Overload for a Giant Wood Moth. At 3.5″ long it’s a good thing it’s a docile moth.

Also on Ugly Overload, someone sent in a great head-on macro shot of Eupackardia calleta, the Calleta Silkmoth, a native to the North American southwest. Although a very stunning species in ordinary encounters, it does have a very evil look to it in this photo.

Speaking of no-do-gooders, Susannah of Wanderin’ Weeta, in British Columbia, had a difficult time getting a photo of her fugitive moth, an Indian Meal Moth, that slipped in with her dried goods.

Though the mothing season may be picking up for some, for The Moth Man things are still slow in his garden in Ontario. He shares with us a couple of loopers that were one of just a handful of species to grace his trap so far.

This is the time of year where the large and eye-catching silk moths start flying. Unsurprisingly, they’re a popular subject in the blogosphere right now, and most especially the large, soft green Luna Moth. Darlene of Dirt Road Heaven, Karen of World of Karen, Daisy of Ananda, and artist Sheila Thornton all share their encounters with this beautiful moth.

7757 - Antheraea polyphemus - Polyphemus Moth
Polyphemus Moth, Antheraea polyphemus

Of course, the Luna is not the only silk moth to be catching eyes; at Elfspeak the blogger shares a Polyphemus Moth found at her porch light one evening. Shortly after, she finds a female at her work.

Over at Moonraking in Indiana, the author shares the story of some silk moths raised by his daughters’ preschool class. The teacher has been breeding them and sharing them with the class, and his daughters got to bring two home.

In southern California, “Vanessa” of Am I Bugging You Yet? discovered a Large Yellow Underwing, a fairly common species found across much of the continent, which popped out of a small bush during a search for mantids.

In Illinois, Doug at Gossamer Tapestry also had a daytime encounter with a diurnal moth; his was an Eight-spotted Forester (check out those orange leggings).

From a bit further south, Martin of Nature in the Ozarks shares his sighting of a Hollow-spotted Plagodis (the spots are not see-through, and the origin of the common name is unclear).

On the other hand, Hummingbird Clearwing moths really do have clear wings, as Aydin of Snail’s Tales shows us using a dead individual found on the sidewalk of a shopping centre in Maryland.

Another sphinx moth appears on the blog of Desert Survivor, who was graced by many White-lined Sphinx Moths visiting the flowers of her garden in the American southwest.

Julie Zickefoose was on a birding trip in West Virginia when she came across a mudpuddling group of Pipevine Swallowtails – and a Nessus Sphinx, which joined the butterflies in looking for the minerals in the mud.

Moving across the pond to England, the blogger behind Tidelines found a Poplar Hawkmoth along a path in a Yorkshire seaside town.

7388 - Xanthorhoe ferrugata - Red Twin-Spot
Red Twin-spot, Xanthorhoe ferrugata

Somewhere further down the shore, Leew of Yorkshire Coast posts a couple of photos of two species of carpet caught in the moth trap one night.

Robert of Robert Laughton Bird Photography doesn’t have any photos of carpets (though he did catch some), but does share a great variety of other interesting species from his trap in Bristol. Included among these are some great Puss Moths, large, striking black-and-white moths.

Some really great photos of Puss Moths can be found over at Mostlymacro, where Dean posts a series following the moth from caterpillar to adult. Included is a series that shows the wings expanding after emergence from the cocoon; it’s amazing they can grow so much!

Another assortment of photos is presented by Tony at St. Margaret’s at Cliffe Photo Diary, though he and a commenter note that mothing has been slow recently.

Also lamenting the low abundance of moths was Steve of North Downs and Beyond, but he shares a Light Brocade with the observation that “even a ‘duff’ year can produce the goods at a local level”, and offers the encouragment to “keep on keeping on”.

That’s it for this edition of The Moth and Me. Get your submissions for the next one in to me by June 13 at sanderling [at] symbiotic [dot] ca. In the meantime, get out there and get mothing! For us northern hemisphere-ers, we’re just starting to head into the best part of the year!

Mid-April moths

10994 - Cerastis tenebrifera - Reddish Speckled Dart
Reddish Speckled Dart, Cerastis tenebrifera

This weekend the wizards over at Environment Canada are forecasting a warm front moving through. Saturday and Sunday are both supposed to be in the mid-20s (high 70s F), the warmest days we’ve seen yet this spring. I have no doubt that the blacklights are going to be exceptionally busy those nights, so in preparation I wanted to post up the remainder of my photos from the last big push at my sheet last week.

9185 - Colocasia propinquilinea - Close-banded Yellowhorn
Close-banded Yellowhorn, Colocasia propinquilinea

We’re starting to see more variety emerging. While on the early nights I might have half a dozen species coming to the lights, on the recent warmer nights there may be 20 or 30. This is a great count for early April, but it still pales compared to the numbers that might be possible at the height of summer: in good locations, species counts can reach 150-200 species in a single night.

9184 - Colocasia flavicornis - Yellowhorn (2)
Yellowhorn, Colocasia flavicornis

I’m still catching good numbers of the early groups, sallows and pinions and Phigalias. However, I’m starting to see increasing numbers of other groups, as well. There are a number of chunky-bodied fuzzy moths, which are usually associated with the cooler months when the hairy bodies help with thermoregulation. Among these are the yellowhorns, so named for the colour of their antennae.

7934 - Gluphisia linitneri - Lintner's Gluphisia
Lintner’s Gluphisia, Gluphisia linitneri

Some of them can be really fuzzy, such as the Gluphisias.

7329 - Anticlea vasiliata - Variable Carpet
Variable Carpet, Anticlea vasiliata

Carpets are in the family Geometridae, a group that tend to be very broad and flat, often holding their wings flat to the sides rather than tented over their body. They generally have broad bands of colour across their wings, like a braided rug. The Variable Carpet is one of the earliest.

10518 - Achatia distincta - Distinct Quaker
Distinct Quaker, Achatia distincta

Quakers and daggers are very striking groups that somewhat resemble the sallows in shape. The daggers especially tend to be black and white, and more streaky, while the quakers come in a broader range of colours and patterns, though they typically show the two spots on the wings. The Distinct Quaker is a smart looking one.

8591 - Phoberia atomaris - Common Oak Moth
Common Oak Moth, Phoberia atomaris

We’re right at the northern edge of the range for this one, the Common Oak Moth. It’s associated, unsurprisingly, primarily with oak forests, as that tree group is its only host species. It seems to be more common to the south in Carolinian forests. Oak is a strong component of the woodlands through our region, and I’ve noticed a number of oak-associated species are fairly common here, particularly compared to elsewhere in the province.

10019 - Psaphida resumens - Figure-Eight Sallow
Figure-Eight Sallow, Psaphida resumens

One such would be this, the Figure-eight Sallow, so named because the orbicular and claviform spots (the two on the upper forewing) touch, forming an 8. Their host plants are maples and oaks, both common.

10012 - Psaphida electilis - Chosen Sallow (2)
Chosen Sallow, Psaphida electilis

And finally, the Chosen Sallow. Although you wouldn’t guess it just by looking at it, this species is in the same genus as the Figure-eight Sallow. Although wide-spread, the Chosen seems to be a less common species than the Figure-eight, possibly due to its host plants, hickory and walnut, being more uncommon. That said, I had upwards of a dozen of them at my lights here last week.

That’s it for last week’s moths! I’ll be busy with my blacklights this weekend, but should have a great crop of new species to share next week.

Welcome to NAMBI!

Beautiful Wood-Nymph - Hodges#9301 (Eudryas grata)

The North American Moths Backyard Inventory (NAMBI) is a new initiative that I’ve started with the hopes of beginning a new database on range and abundance information for the moths of North America. It’s my hope that this project will eventually reach the level of popularity enjoyed by such citizen science projects as the Great Backyard Bird Count, the Blogger Bio Blitz, International Rock-flipping Day, and others.

Most vertebrates, like birds, and many of the flashy invertebrates, such as butterflies, are fairly well-documented for North America. Birding is a popular pasttime, and even butterflying is garnering a stronger following. However, mothing is still not a common activity. As a result, so little is currently known about moths that everyone has the opportunity to contribute valuable data. Your sightings could be a first county or state/provincial record! Even species that have been documented for your area before may not exist in a formal database, and so the data you collect will be very important.

Participating is easy. There’s no set date, weekend or week. Participate as often or as infrequently as you like. Simply check your back porch light, set up a sheet and blacklight, or put out a light trap or sugar goop if you want. Invite some friends over and make a social event of it, or enjoy the peace and quiet by yourself. Set up in your backyard, go down the street to your neighbourhood nature patch, or see what you get while you’re out camping. How you go about it is completely up to you!

I hope that NAMBI participants will contribute to this blog to share their adventures and photos from mothing. If you would like to share your stories here on the blog, please contact me to be added as a blog author. Everyone is welcome to join, so don’t be shy! Also be sure to share your photos with other participants at the NAMBI Flicker Group!

For more information on the project or how to participate, please check out these links (also at the top of the page):

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