The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

“Beautiful Wood Nymph”, LOL.

True story:

two nights ago I was sitting on my back porch, watching the moths et al. flock to the two bright floodlights (yes, I picked them on purpose) mounted over the patio door.  This oddly shaped and patterned moth lit on the screen.  I noticed its long and very furry front legs.  I popped it in a plastic baggie so I could bring it inside to show my wife.  We oohed and ahhed and exclaimed over the unique colours and funny limbs, and at one point I said something like: “I think it’s one of those bird-poo-mimicking moths.  You know, they look like poop.”  I released it a short while later and then retired for the evening.

The next day we were toiling away in the back yard, and I started walking toward our fence so that I could toss some weeds I’d just plucked from a garden over the fence and into the woods beyond.  As I approached (our new and much-sweated-and-blistered-and-cussed-over) wood fence, I saw a whitish blob on the top rail and thought: “stupid bird went and pooped on our lovely new fence muttermuttercurse”.  I stepped in for a closer look.  I know, “ew”, but there was this weird reddish squiggle and I was wondering what the heck the bird had been eating.  As I peered at this mysterious squiggle, mere inches away from this “poop”, my brain finally clued in to what I was actually looking at.  “Holy crap,” I said (no pun intended) “that’s not a poop, that’s a MOTH!”  Indeed, it was the very same “maybe it’s a poo-mimic” moth from the night before, doing a HECK of a job at looking like a fresh bird turd.

Look at the shades of bird-poo-green and white!  The black cruddy-looking bit by the head! The fuzzy feeties!  The feet add to the *splat* illusion, especially when viewed from above:

So I BugGuide-ed this critter, by typing “bird poo” into the search engine.  Its picture came up right away, and I figured it would have a colourful name to go with its poopy appearance.  Something like, oh, I don’t know…Bird Poop Moth or Dropping Moth, or Aaak! Don’t Set Your Glass Down On That Moth. 

But no – no, dear friends, it did not have a single scatological reference in its name, which made my 12-year-old-boy-ish sense of humour very sad.  This master of mimicry is called…wait for it…the Beautiful Wood Nymph (Eudryas grata).  Really?  REALLY???  I always thought entomologists, as a general rule, were a pretty funny bunch, but someone sure missed the punchline on this one.

12 responses to ““Beautiful Wood Nymph”, LOL.

  1. Chris Grintter July 18, 2011 at 10:12 PM

    Haha I love it, all the more reason to hate common names! They never make sense…

  2. Ted C. MacRae July 19, 2011 at 10:27 AM

    I’m sure the name was thought up by someone looking at a mounted specimen – wings spread in lifeless glory. An example of how much understanding is missed when insects are studied only by examination of preserved specimens.

    • TGIQ July 19, 2011 at 9:40 PM

      So very, very true. I find I always learn more about an animal by watching it in its natural environment; its form always makes more sense in context. It’s possible, I suppose, that someone just felt bad for this guy and decided to cut it some slack?

  3. mthew July 28, 2011 at 7:27 PM

    Whatever we call it, and I’d call it beautiful, is just a half-assed approximation of what it really is, anyway (I’m channeling Ed Abbey here).

  4. Michael Battenberg August 7, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    If it really WAS a poop-mimic, I’d expect to find them in Toronto… but alas, all I ever find on fence posts is real poop.

  5. Pingback: Get your mothing on with National Moth Week! « The Bug Geek

  6. Pingback: Sometimes poop happens if you’re persistent. | The Bug Geek

  7. Jean smith June 30, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    The moth IS beautiful!

  8. Khoral June 30, 2015 at 12:35 AM

    Hilariously written!!!! I need to read more about bugs from you 👍

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