Sunday, August 18, 2013

Some Moths

Moths are really spectacular, but sadly they are many times over-shadowed by the more "flashy" butterflies. While butterflies are nice, moths are so incredibly varied and fascinating that they deserve a closer look.

So let's take a look at some of the moths I've come across recently.

Some moths are quite flashy and in your face. This is one such moth. This is a Pandorus Sphinx, Eumorpha pandorus, (also known as the Pandora Sphinx). These guys are massive; they can have wingspans of 3¼–4½ inches. If you ever come across one, you will definitely notice it. I came across this individual a few years ago on my front porch in the city. Adults fly at dusk from May to October, depending where you are in their range. In Ohio, there's flight data from June through August. The north only has one generation a year. Sphinx moths are always flashy, and this one is one of the flashiest in my opinion.

While there are flashy moths, there are also very plain moths. However, many of these plain moths have a very subtle beauty if a person actually gives them the time of day to look. This is a Common Tan Wave Moth, Pleuroprucha insulsaria. This smaller moth lives throughout Eastern North America and is common in deciduous woods, forest clearings, and field edges. They are nocturnal and attracted to lights, which is where I found this individual by.

This nondescript moth is a Green Cloverworm Moth, Hypena scabra. It's a species found over the majority of Eastern North America, and has even been reported in Great Britain! They're also nocturnal and attracted to light.

This tiny moth is a Sparganothis Fruitworm Moth, Sparganothis sulfureana. When I first saw him, I just thought it was another tiny, drab moth, but then I took a closer look at it. It revealed a intricate cream-and-caramel-coloured moth. Next time you see a tiny moth, take another look; you'll never know what you may see.

This moth stood out because of its color. This is a Spotted Fireworm Moth, Choristoneura parallela. 

Here's another interesting moth. Tiny, but different. This is a Black-shaded Platynota Moth, Platynota flavedana. 

This is a Common Idia, Idia aemula. A pretty common moth, this species is found across most of North America and Eurasia. This individual was quite worn, as you can see!

This one turned out to be the highlight of one mothing (yes, mothing, like birding) night. I'm pretty sure (and others agree) that this is a Detracted Owlet, Lesmone detrahens. It appears to be a very worn individual, making ID a bit harder, but it really matches other photos of Detracted Owlets on BugGuide. Anyway, Detracted Owlets, a southern moth species, are uncommon/rare visitors to Ohio, so this turned out to be a great find!

That's all for this post. Keep on a look out for moths!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Creatures of the Night

The other night around 10 PM, I headed out to a big security light in my backyard (located in Pickaway County). Insects were flying everywhere, all drawn to the light. Predators, such as spiders, prowled the area looking for an easy meal. Here are a few of the creatures I came across...

This awesome moth was the highlight of the night. This is a Virginia Creeper Sphinx, Darapsa myron. It's also known as the Hog Sphinx. Sphinxes are a type of moth that are very easily identifiable. Most sphinxes have the general body shape as the one above. The Virginia Creeper Sphinx is widespread across the Eastern portion of the US and is quite common.

Here's another beauty of a moth. Many times moths are overlooked; many people go after the more "flashy" butterflies. However, many moths are also flashy. Many have subtle beauties as well if you take the time to actually look at them. This one is a Delicate Cycnia, Cycnia tenera, also known as the Dogbane Tiger Moth. Interestingly, these moths will emit a high pitched clicking sound when bats are nearby. While the exact function is still uncertain, studies have found that bats many times choose to forgo these moths when clicking, so it is thought that the Delicate Cycnia's clicking might actually be disrupting the bat's echolocation, rendering it confused and not wanting to attack.

This is a conehead, as you can see from its cone-shaped head. Species wise, I'm pretty sure it is a Robust Conehead, Neoconocephalus robustus. I'll get into why later. First, this insect was massive; she was nearly the size of 3/4 of my hand or so. You might have heard one during the summer. They have an incredibly loud, constant buzz. Head over to this video to hear a recording of one. I believe this is a Robust Conehead because of its large size, the immaculate tip of its head, and the size of its ovipositor (egg-laying organ that looks like a giant stinger-type thing) which is 1.0-1.2 times the length of its hind femur. Coneheads are part of the katydid family, as you might be able to tell. The camouflage of this girl (which you can tell is a girl due to the presence of the ovipositor) is amazing; if you were by a silent one on a leaf, you would probably never notice it!

My backyard was surprisingly filled with a variety of life; I went out looking for moths and found treefrogs as well! This guy is a treefrog, but the exact species is uncertain. It's either a Gray Treefrog or a Cope's Gray Treefrog. Both species look exactly the same and can only be told apart by song or DNA. This one was silent, so I just have to leave it at some sort of gray treefrog.

Here's a shot of another treefrog that landed by me. Yes, landed. He fell from the sky and landed beside me. I think he was on the top of a shed I was by when he decided he didn't want to be there anymore... Don't worry though, he was fine. Really fascinating creatures up close though. This was actually my first time ever seeing a treefrog, so I was quite happy. Our yard also has a lot of American Toads hopping around, so it's quite the amphibian-hang-out.

There were about ten more species of moths, a few spiders, and other odds and ends that I came across over the night. After I identify some of the other moths, I'll have a post about some of them, so stay tuned you insect-lovers!

This also shows the incredibly variety of nature you probably have in your backyard. If you ever get bored, go outside at night with a flashlight and look for the whole other world that comes alive when the sun goes down!