Spring is slowly, gently settling in here in eastern Ontario, and despite some snow last week, we are actually experiencing sunny weather and mild temperatures, on and off again. Right now we’re on again. There is almost nothing quite as satisfying as stepping out on a glorious spring morning, the sun warm on your back, and checking out all of the new shoots and animal activity that come with the start of the season. I say almost nothing, because finding the first moth fluttering at your blacklit sheet is pretty darned satisfying, too. Although some areas of the province are still waiting for the moths to find their lights, I’ve had the pleasure of watching the moths come in to my sheet on warm nights since mid-March. I’ve tallied over 20 species so far this spring, which I feel is an impressive assortment for yet so early in the season. I can’t decide which I anticipate more, the warm, sunny afternoons or the warm, moth-filled evenings.
Crimson Tiger Moth, Spilosoma curvata, by Duncan of Ben Cruachan
Just as our year is warming up, in the other half of the hemisphere things are cooling down. In the shadow of Ben Cruachan, Duncan has been patiently waiting for rain to bring some of the “big beautiful moths out of their subterranean tunnels under the garden eucalypts.” While he waits he catches some subtle but striking species (including the above), before finally being rewarded with the rain moths themselves.
Down the street and around the corner (insomuch as they’re on the same continent), Snail of Snail’s Eye View collected the caterpillar of an Anthela moth, which she encountered while pruning in her garden, and watched it pupate and then hatch out into a lovely cream-coloured adult.
Lyn at Soulsong Art found a lovely hawkmoth, which she shares a photo of. She also suggests she plans to try her own hand with blacklighting – inspired by Duncan of Ben Cruachan. We as bloggers have a lot more influence than we suspect, I think!
Over at the Moths of Great Western (Australia), JMH has been busy updating the various albums with the latest moths to come in to the lights. Although not strictly a blog, the site operates somewhat similarly to Flickr, in terms of organization, but with the addition of a “latest activity” feed on the front page that includes comments about various moths and/or photos. The site effectively replaces Lepidoptera Diary, which JMH reported moth and butterfly sightings to previously.
From a little bit north and west, in Thailand, the author of TWITstream’s world talks about some great sphinx moths raised by hand in the garden… one of which eats the leaves of an illegal plant, surreptitiously obtained by secret forays into the forest.
Dotted Chestnut, Conistra rubiginea, by Ben of Essex Moths
The mothing season has been going strong for nearly two months now in the mild UK. Given Britain’s reputation as world headquarters for the sport of mothing, it’s not surprising that there are a number of blogs that have been busy posting regular updates over the last month or so.
One such blog is Essex Moths, where Ben posts nearly every day with the latest catch from his moth trap. The first moth of Monday evening turned out to be the Dotted Chestnut shown above, a species that hadn’t been recorded in Essex in a few years and is typically more associated with woodlands than backyard gardens, which just goes to show that even in Mothing Central you still never know what might show up.
Brian at The Natural Stone isn’t as regular a poster as Ben, but still offers periodic snapshots of what’s happening in his garden. The most recent visitor to be highlighted is a striking Purple Thorn. The British have some fabulous, colourful names for their moths.
Back in 2006, Brian caught a gravid female Nut Tree Tussock Moth in his light trap and decided to keep her to allow her to lay her eggs in captivity where he could watch them develop. He reared them up to adulthood (knowing the identity of the mother obviously helps with choosing the right food), and documented the caterpillars’ progress over the summer on a separate blog. Although the posts are now a couple years old, and some of the photos from the first posts are broken, the series of photos is still interesting to follow through.
Speaking of Nut Tree Tussocks, Tony at St Margaret’s at Cliffe Photo Diary had one among his catch he got with a couple of young (8-year-old) helpers. Mothing is a great way to spark an interest in nature among kids, there’s an element of surprise and unknown every time you check the sheet that’s somewhat addictive (sure hooked me).
The Norfolk Moths blog posted a note back in February about an eco-friendly way of mothing abroad (abroad, in this situation, meaning down the street at your local nature park). They suggest the use of a bike trailer of the sort intended for carting your kid around with you. Field-tested last year, it apparently fits everything you might need for an evening of mothing with friends, including a six-pack (an important addition!).
Dogwood Thyatirid, Euthyatira pudens
Here on the home front (my home, at least), the moths are just beginning to stretch their wings in most areas. As such, moth posts are still few, and the lack of dedicated moth blogs means the critters haven’t got a lot of blog time yet (come July, when we’re enjoying warm, muggy nights and moths are flocking to peoples’ windows, we’ll be seeing a lot more).
There’s lots to look forward to, though. This post, by Dave at The Moth Man, is from last April, and is a taste of things to come. The photos are from a mothing trip to southwestern Ontario on April 19 – a year ago this coming weekend. He reported 55 species from that trip. That part of Ontario is typically warmer than where I am, but with a little bit of luck on the weather front, we might see some of these spring moths, such as the Dogwood Thyatirid above, starting to appear next week.
I did actually have one of my own posts from the past few weeks that I was going to include here, but in browsing the web for other material I stumbled across a post of mine from the same weekend as Dave’s above. The moths were from my parents’ old house, on the rural Niagara Escarpment a bit north and east of where Dave had done his mothing. I didn’t get quite so many species that weekend, but still got a good variety. It will be interesting to see what turns up at my moth light this spring, but certainly some great things to look forward to!
Jennifer of Today in NJ Birding History has a semi-regular post series on her blog called “Mothy Monday”. A Eupsila sp. (perhaps Straight-toothed Sallow) and a Spring Cankerworm start off her mothing season.
Moths are found even in places you wouldn’t think to look. Take these sand cocoons found by Susannah of Wanderin’ Weeta, for instance. Her moth post talks about the wingless sort, females of the family Psychidae, which spend virtually their entire life wrapped up in these homes they fashion for themselves.
And finally, Doug of Gossamer Tapestry offers some tips on how to select a good butterfly net. But this is a moth carnival, not butterflies, I hear you say. True! But butterfly nets are useful for both groups of leps. There are many diurnal moths, such as The Infant, that you might encounter much as you would butterflies. Also, it’s great for scooping moths from the rafters above your blacklight.
That’s it for April! I expect activity for moth’ers in the northern hemisphere will start to pick up in the next month and May’s edition should be a good one. Make sure you get your submission in to sanderling [at] symbiotic [dot] ca before the May 13th deadline for the May 15th carnival!