The Bug Geek

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Post-hoc Moth Week: Day 6 (last day!)

I’m going to wrap up the NMW posts today, finishing off with two more last-minute-porch-light finds.  I’ll be continuing to observe my backyard moths this summer, so don’t be surprised if you see more moth posts in the months to come!

Both of today’s moths are are flashy stunners, with surprises under their forewings.

This is a gorgeous Tiger moth I’m fairly certain I’ve never seen before. The striking black spots on otherwise pure white wings and the black-and-white striped feet lead me to suspect this is the Salt Marsh Moth, Estigmene acrea.

Salt Marsh Moth, Estigmene acrea (#8131)

As if it wasn’t already special enough, an accidental more-rough-than-I-meant-to touch prompted it to suddenly flash open its wings, revealing a startling orange underwing and a black and orange-striped abdomen. It curled its abdomen upwards, flopped on its side rather dramatically and even oozed a little yellow haemolymph from the point where its forelegs attached to its thorax. I had to prop it back on its belly for this photo, then over the course of about ten seconds or so it slowly closed its wings and resumed its normal relaxed posture. Only the males have the orange underwings (females’ are white). These are generalist feeders that nibble on a variety of deciduous trees, veggies, fruits and crops.

Salt Marsh Moth in a defensive posture

And last but not least, a large (probably about 1.75″ long ) and beautiful underwing moth. I always get excited when I spot one of these lovely creatures – the flash of orange, yellow or pink beneath the otherwise well-camouflaged wings are such a treat! I have to say, I’m having trouble IDing this one with my new Peterson guide. It had pinkish underwings I think, but I was unable to get a photo before it took off (this one was still fluttering away in the fridge after being “chilled out” over night!)

Update: commenter Roger has helped out again with this mystery…he’s on a roll!!!
looks like Catocala ultronia f. lucinda

Well, that beings this year’s Moth Week to a close! I’m looking forward to next year’s event already, and congratulations to the organizers for developing such a hugely successful program!

And, just in case you missed them, here are the links to the first five day’s posts:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Post-hoc Moth Week: Day 5

NMW Day five!  Both of today’s moths are found nearly continent-wide but they differ in their feeding habits.

This one is a subtle beauty…pale and soft but also regal. It’s a White Speck, Mythimna unipuncta, also called the Armyworm moth. The caterpillars are generalists, feeding on many kinds of crops, veggies and other plants – it can be quite pesty, actually.  It’s a common and widespread moth, found everywhere in North America but the arctic Canadian Territories and Alaska.

White Speck (Mythimna unipuncta) #10438

Next up is the Common Gluphisia, Gluphisia septentrionis. This one is known to occur everywhere except Nunavut and the Northwest Territories – talk about a range!  Unlike the White Speck, however, it is a specialist feeder, preferring Poplar (Populus spp.) as its host.

Common Gluphisia (Gluphisia septentrionis) #7931

Post-hoc Moth Week: Day 4

NMW roundup day four!

Since I’ve run out of in situ forest moths, I’m down to the few that I managed to snag on the final eve of NMW. You’ll recall that these were collected at my porch light, stored in my fridge overnight, then removed the following day for a portrait session. They were posed on lilac leaves taken from my yard, and are not representative of their hosts at all (just a nicer backdrop than my patio table).

Here’s the first: the Calico Pyralid, Aglossa costiferalis. I particularly like the pinkish hue to the scales – it’s subtle but quite pretty. This little moth’s hosts are not known.

Calico pyralid (Aglossa costiferalis) #5511

Next, a super fuzzy-wuzzy fellow that I’m sure belongs to the looper group (Noctuidae), but I can’t put my finger on it. Again, I’ll take a little help!

Unknown Looper (Noctuidae)

Dorsal view

Post-hoc Moth Week: Day 3

NMW post-hoc day three!

These are the last two “pine forest” moths I have for you. The first is the Morbid Owlet, Chytolita morbidalis (I love that name! I suspect it’s due to the pallor of its wing patterns, compared to other closely related Owlets). Like one of the moths featured yesterday, it is also a “Litter Moth”: the caterpillars feed on leaf litter from deciduous trees (there were a couple of oaks and maples!)

Morbid Owlet (Chytolita morbidalis) # 8355

Next, a Geometrid moth that I don’t feel quite comfortable attaching a name to. It looks rather similar to the Pine Measuringworm moth I posted earlier…but not similar enough for me to feel confident. Again, I’d welcome help with an ID!

Unknown Geometrid (looks sort of like a Pine Measuringworm Moth – Pine Measuringworm Moth (Hypagyrtis piniata) #6656

Again, I find myself rather amazed at the diversity of form and pattern  in these “plain beige” moths. I’ve definitely learned that even the duller-colored moths warrant a closer look!

Post hoc Moth Week: Day 1

Ok, I have to say this:

I feel like I kind of failed at Moth Week. 😦 It was not for lack of trying!

You’ll recall that I was going to revisit the same park at which I’d photographed all the lovely leps with which I left you in my last post. Well, I was there, but I had lousy luck. It rained a ton, and the slightly different forest type in which I was camping (predominantly spruce/pine rather than predominantly deciduous) made a big difference in the amount and type of understory growth and leaf litter, therefore drastically changing the moth fauna (or so it seemed). I tromped around in those woods for hours and barely stirred up half a dozen moths.

With only a small headlamp at my disposal (not to mention positively WICKED mosquitoes), I didn’t bother trying to draw them into my camp in the evenings.  I later tried collecting a few that had been attracted to the electric lights at buildings on the mainland, but I apparently need to learn some techniques for transporting live, active moths: they bashed all the scales off their wings before I could get photos of them. (The ruination of a beautiful Great Tiger Moth, Arctica caja, was a particularly devastating loss).

In desperation, I collected a bunch of neat-looking moths at my porch light yesterday night (that still counts, right???) and kept them safe in vials in my fridge until this morning, but again my inexperience with this group of insects proved to be my downfall: most of them up and flew away before I could get decent shots (how on EARTH does one get studio-style photographs of microleps??? I ask you: HOW???)

Anyways, I committed to doing moth-a-day posts this week, and I’ve managed to salvage enough photos to do just that – in fact, you’ll probably get two photos!

I will say that I’ve learned a few things about this mothing business, and I’m determined to get better at it before next year’s Moth Week. I’m hoping to find opportunities to hang out with more experienced moth’ers so I can learn the ropes first-hand…anyone know of anything or anyone in eastern Ontario?

So, for the first of this week’s post hoc Moth Week photos, I’ll start with the first two moths I encountered while camping*.

This a new one for me: the Pale-winged Gray, Iridopsis ephyraria. It took off when I disturbed its hiding place, and I froze, tracking it visually until it seemed to disappear beneath a clump of ferns. I stalked over, and scanned the area until I finally spotted it resting ON the fern.

Pale-winged Gray Moth (Iridopsis ephyraria) #6583. Photo taken with natural light.

The next is one I found quite often during my last trip. The Wavy-Lined Fan-Foot (Zanclognatha jacchusalis) is a “Litter Moth” (probably referring to the fact that they’re easily scared up out of leaf litter).

Wavy-Lined Fan-Foot (Zanclognatha jacchusalis) #8353. Photo taken using flash.

*Again, I welcome any and all ID corrections! I still have a lot to learn about these nocturnal beauties!

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