Taking Flight (Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday)

Last week was National Moth Week, so I have once again been taking countless photos of moths both at my annual moth night at work and in my own backyard.  Many of my photos turn out well enough to help me get an ID for the things I see, but every now and again I get one like this:

Photo of a moth flying away from the camera

Almost…

SOOOOO frustrating!

(I’ve been away at a conference and busy as heck at work recently, but I should get back to my normal schedule here for a while.  See you Friday!)

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth
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Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: The Moth Formerly Known as Woolly Bear Caterpillar

It’s woolly bear caterpillar time!  I haven’t seen as many this year as I have the past couple of falls, but there have a been a few out and about.  Ever wondered what they look like as adults?  This is it:

Isabella tiger moth

Isabella tiger moth

Gorgeous, aren’t they?  They’re pretty big too, so it’s always a treat to come across one at my porch light.

Anyone else seeing woolly bears/woolly worms around recently?

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

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Rosy Maples

Well, it’s officially July!  I’ve got a few lovely days off this week (woo!) and I’ve already started to get excited about this year’s National Moth Week.  I love Moth Week!  I wrote about it for the blog at my museum last week and I am going on a local news morning show on Saturday to talk about the event I put on for it at the museum each year, so I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently.  Really ready to start seeing things like this again:

Rosy maple moth

Rosy maple moth

Rosy maple moths are pretty common around here, but they are spectacular and put a smile on my face every time I see one.  How can you resist  a fuzzy moth that’s the color of rainbow sherbet?

Are you all ready for National Moth Week?  It’s July 19-27 this year, so make plans to view some moths that week.  You never know what amazing things you’ll see!

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

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Good Day

It’s always a good day at work when you go to visit one of your coworkers and he plops a big cecropia moth into your hands out of the blue:

Cecropia moth

Cecropia moth

That isn’t a particularly great photo, but what spectacular creatures!  I love working at a place where these sorts of things are relatively common occurrences.  I work with a whole horde of nature nerds – and I love every minute of it!

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

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Hummingbird Clearwing

I participated in a bioblitz last weekend, one in which we tried to document as many species as possible in a 24-hour period.  I really enjoyed it!  My very favorite species was this:

Hummingbird clearwing moth

Hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe)

Hummingbird clearwing moth!  I never did get the perfect shot I was hoping for, but I’ve been dying to see one and this was my first opportunity.  There they were, nectaring at the pickerel weed along some small ponds.  That alone made the experience absolutely worth it, though I also got to see some friends and spent part of two days playing with bugs.  Not a bad way to spend a weekend!

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

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Mothing

At the recent moth night I hosted where I work, we were fortunate to see several of the big and beautiful tulip-tree silkmoths.  About an hour into the activity, a dozen or so people were gathered around a blacklight when one of the tulip-tree silkmoths arrived.  It took a few minutes for it to settle, but everyone got really excited.  Lots of cameras came out and everyone was sitting there with their cameras ready to snap a photo as soon as the moth stayed still long enough to get a decent photo.  When it finally did settle on a net held by one of the volunteers, everyone surged toward the moth at once!  Flashes flashed, there were hands and cameras everywhere, and by some miracle the moth wasn’t scared away by all the people suddenly crowded around it.  I happened to be standing back a little ways, so I snapped a photo of the crowd around the moth once the it thinned enough to see what was going on:

a group of people around a big moth

Excited by moths

It makes me happy to see so many people completely enthralled by a single moth!  That’s what I always hope to see at moth nights, but sometimes you get a crowd that just isn’t that into the experience.  These people…  Well, let’s just say they’re my kind of people.  :)

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

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, TOLYPE NOTIALIS

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.  :)

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