Friday, June 20, 2014

Almost time for National Moth Week!

And boy, is the mothing heating up around here! Just in time for NMW2014, I'm starting to get some real moths out in the yard. Temperatures have warmed into the 70s and sometimes 80s in the day, and it's as warm as the 60s at night--which has brought out the moths!

The last two nights I've gone out, I've been putting my sheet on the front of the house (perpendicular to the street) instead of on the shed out back, and WOW--moth city! Who knows if the location is contributing, but the warm temps have definitely helped.

A few examples, including my first giant silkmoth!
Callosamia promethea (Promethea Moth)

 One that really stumped me:
Macaria transitaria (Blurry Chocolate Angle Moth)
There was a lot of back and forth on mothy facebook page I belong to, but that's the consensus on the species. Moths are sooooo much more variable than birds, and with four wings to work with, the field marks are still harder to figure out. I'll think, "okay, reddish head, three spots on the leading edges of the wings, some stripes barring across the wings..." and then come up empty after staring at my Peterson's moth guide and the Moth Photographers Group website for like an hour and a half. Thank goodness bird IDs are not this hard! This blog might've been titled "forget those stupid birds!" But somehow I find the patience.

The other day, AB asked me how long I'd had this desire to classify and identify; did it start with birds, or was it always there? I remember separating out my Skittles by color on a sheet of paper, and then drawing a circle around the groupings of each color, and then labeling each color. 

That was in college.

I guess it was always there. I always liked butterflies, though I wasn't as concerned with their names as I was with seeing as many as I could, up close--observing their colors and shapes, comparing them to each other. Way back when, my big brother had to put together a collection when he was in junior high, so he recruited my little sister Mary and me to get the required "specimens." I enjoyed that, though not so much the killing of them.

I know I tend to be quite meticulous and ultra-focused when I like doing something; I can do one thing for hours at a time without looking up. (AB also marvels at my ability and desire to play game after game of Rumikub or SkipBo.)

So I guess it was just natural that I'd see a bird that sparked my desire to see more and more birds, or I'd see a moth that sparked my desire to see more and more moths. And then the little anal retentive part of me that needs to have names for things just kicked in, and I began to search for names for each of those birds or those moths.

And I am now starting to compile a lifemoth LIST. AB just sighs and says, "I guess I'll be going to bed alone again tonight...."

But enough of this introspection! Back to the moths! There was this little powdery-soft beauty:
Antaeotricha schlaegeri Schlaeger's Fuitworm Moth

And for the first time since waaaaay back in July 2008, I got a Luna Moth!
Actias luna
When that big moth flew in, I thought it was a bird! He was so huge and so fluttery, whipping around in the hostas and bumping into everything. He never landed, but he did pause just long enough for me to snap this picture before he fluttered off again. Most of the pics were just blurry shots of the grass or the house. In the three or four years I've been mothing, this Luna and the Promethea are the first two big moths I've ever gotten at the light. Pretty exciting!

An interesting thing about mothing here is that I'm seeing very few of the moths I saw back in Maine. Most of the moths I've seen up here have been new to me; I never saw them in PA. I guess I'm really a lot farther north, and I'm no longer near the mountains. Lots more trees in the vicinity of my light rig here too. I do miss seeing my PA regulars--things like Hypoprepia fucosa Painted Lichen Moth or Xanthotype urticaria False Crocus Geometer Moth. I saw those all the time back in PA.

Here, though, I get a lot of these:
Caripeta piniata Northern Pine Looper

and these:
Rheumaptera prunivorata Cherry Scallop Shell

I also get about 20 moth species that I can't identify. I have folders of literally hundreds of unidentified moths (similar to Mitt's binders full of women? You decide.), and it takes hours and hours of looking online at moth pics, looking at my Peterson's, etc. to figure them out. That's IF I figure them out.

It's only viable to moth in the summer up here, though--so at least AB will have me back in the fall, when the nights get chilly again and the winter begins its inevitable return.

Until then--MOTHS!