Friday 5: National Moth Week Wrap-up

If you follow my blog, you are likely aware that National Moth week 2013 was a couple of weeks ago.  I love National Moth Week!  This year, I learned a lot about moths, something I did an absolutely terrible job of during last year’s inaugural Moth Week.  This is due in part to the fact that I got to go to a moth workshop and learned from several experts in North Carolina, then spent an evening blacklighting (shining UV lights onto white sheets or walls to attract insects) and photographing moths with those experts.  There’s nothing quite like having a bunch of moth geeks around who can rattle off names while you’re looking at them!  And this year, I tried something new: I WROTE THE NAMES DOWN in my notebook, and then tagged the pictures I took once I got home. That did absolute wonders to my moth species retention!  The best part: when I held my own moth night later that week, I felt a lot more confident in my ability to recognize the moths I saw.

Between the moth workshop, mothing with the experts, and the moth night I hosted at the field station where I work, I got to see some pretty cool moths during National Moth Week! These were my favorites:

Elegant Grass-veneer, Microcrambus elegans

Elegant grass veneer moth

Elegant grass-veneer, Microcrambus elegans

I am most proud of myself for being able to recognize a few microleps, the really tiny moths that few people bother with because they’re a pain to ID. There were dozens, perhaps hundreds, of elegant grass-veneers on the sheets at the moth workshop and at Prairie Ridge, so I got plenty of practice on them. These moths, as their name suggests, enjoy munching on grasses as larvae before turning into the gorgeous moth in the picture above.  Considering the fact that Prairie Ridge is mostly prairie (go figure), it is not entirely surprising that there are so many of these moths flying around.  The wedge-shaped marking in the center of the wings is characteristic of this species, in case you happen to see elegant grass-veneers in your area.

Sparganothis Fruitworm Moth, Sparganothis sulphureana

Sparganothis fruitworm moth

Sparganothis fruitworm moth, Sparganothis sulphureana

I did not have this little moth confirmed by an expert, but this one was really spectacular!  The sparganothis fruitworm moth larva is not a picky eater, feeding on clover, apple, corn, and pine, among other things.  Eventually it will turn into this colorful beauty!  The orange markings on yellow narrow down the choices, but the V shape along the back is what really distinguishes this species.  The orange can be much more extensive than this in some individuals, but that V is always present.  That made it easy to tell apart from another similarly colored moth, the reticulated fruitworm, that I found right next to this one on the sheet.  Convenient, eh?


Small tolype moth

Small tolype, Tolype notialis

Moving up a lot more in size, this wonderful moth was my favorite find during Moth Week apart from the luna moth!  There’s something about the subtle color of this moth and all the fuzz that is darned appealing.  This species feeds on coniferous trees, which makes sense considering I spotted it at the light closest to the forest during the moth night I hosted.  Most people were gone by the time this one showed up, which is a shame.  That is one stunning moth and they totally missed it!

Brown Scoopwing, Calledapteryx dryopterata

Brown scoopwing, Calledapteryx dryopterata

Brown scoopwing, Calledapteryx dryopterata

The next biggest moth in my little collection is a highly recognizable species. The angular gap between the front wings and the hindwings, which makes this moth look like it’s had something take a bite out of its wings, narrows the options down to just a few species in the scoopwing group.  Then you can use color and the specific shape of the wings to narrow it down even further.  This species feeds on Viburnum as larvae and are somewhat uncommonly spotted as adults. I could tell it was special because the moth experts at the workshop were particularly excited about this one when it showed up to the lights. It was a beautiful moth, so I’m happy I had a chance to see it!

Imperial Moth, Imperial moth, Eacles imperialis

Imperial moth

Imperial moth, Eacles imperialis

You all know how much I love the really big insects of the world, so of course the giant silkworm moths are my favorite because they can be gigantic.  I’ll finish my pentumvirate* of favorite moth sightings with an imperial moth, one of the larger moths we have in North Carolina – and an awfully pretty one too!  The larvae feed on a variety of deciduous trees, including maple, oak, and cedars, and we have a LOT of all of them in my area.  When one of the giant silkworm moths, including these, show up at a light, everyone pauses for a moment and waits for it to sit still because they command attention and admiration.  I’ve got a photo illustrating the spectacle of silkmoths that I’ll post on Wednesday.  It makes me smile every time I see it!

And with that, I’ve shared five of my favorite moth sightings during National Moth Week! Does anyone want to share one of their favorite moths?  It doesn’t necessarily have to be one you’ve seen recently – I’m just curious which moths you all know and love.  Leave a comment below if you’d like to share!

* I might be making this word up, but it makes sense if you know the roots so I’m sticking with it.  :)


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

10 thoughts on “Friday 5: National Moth Week Wrap-up

  1. This isn’t a moth I’ve seen, but it is a passage about moths that has stuck with me for a few years. After reading this story, I never looked at moths in the same way:

    “This is how moths speak to each other. They tell their love across the fields by scent. There is no mouth, the wrong words are impossible, either a mate is there or he is not, and if so the pair will find each other in the dark.”

     Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer

  2. Splendid moth photos! Tell us more about the Moth Workshop in N.C. And Babsje, I love that Kingsolver quote, that was a great book!

    • The moth workshop was organized by the educator for the state parks in our area (he is shared across 4 or 5 parks, something crazy like that) and he brought together several moth experts from around the state to speak. Some of them were amateur experts who have spent years collecting and photographing moths at their porch lights and are considered experts at identification, some work with the Natural Heritage program in NC using moths as environmental indicators, and a few were good old fashioned scientists. They all presented about various things, but there were a lot of other moth people in the audience too. It ended up being like a little entomology conference that focused on NC moths. The workshop itself was 6 hours long. In the evening, they did a blacklighting session, so all the moth experts and a few of the other workshop attendees (like me) went back to the park after dark and looked for moths on a big series of blacklights, mercury vapor lights, and porch lights around the park’s visitors center. I suspect the workshop was over the heads of some of the people who were in the audience as the speakers didn’t necessarily talk about practical things, like how to tell one type of moth from the others, so much, but as an entomologist I thought it was great! That said, I was really happy I had that background or I would have been quite lost.

  3. Memories of an evening (late July or early August) on the main road down the Eastern Shore in VA near Wallops Island. The motel walls were covered with luna moths! What a sight! Other wonderful memories of a going away present which hatched on my day to drive from Rochester, NY to Reading, PA…a collection of Cecropia moth eggs! I tended the larva through the summer and in early fall they made their cocoons! What amazing caterpillars and of course the moths were stunning!
    But haven’t seen any in a long time!

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