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
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
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, 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
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
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. :)