Saturday, June 9, 2012

Summer Hiatus

Hey, where did all the moths go?

Seriously, this week I have averaged about a half dozen moths all week and it's the same few; a Dimorphic Gray, a couple Olive-sided Bird-Dropping moths, a couple Exposed Bird-Dropping moths and a few other micro moths I haven't been able to identify.

So, I am taking a break from the blog until things pick back up.  As for the scheduled Moth Night for National Moth Week, unless July turns out to be more promising than June has been it will just be a private event; I don't see any reason for people to come out to look at six little moths.  Check back in early July and see if anything has changed.

Here are a few parting shots.... not of moths, unfortunately.
 Tachypompilus ferrugineus - Superficially similar to the common Red Wasp (Polistes carolina), this solitary wasp hunts spiders.

Differential Grasshopper nymph (Melanoplus differentialis) This grasshopper with its herringbone legs is abundant in our fields right now.  The undeveloped wings show that this grasshopper is not yet full grown.

 Eastern Amberwing female (Perithemis tenera) I have seen these quite frequently down around the pond but the female threw me with the dark wing patches.

Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Week 22: The One that Got Away

 The Almost Moth of the Week
When I got to school the other morning I spotted a fairly large Catocala moth sitting on the wall under one of the security lights.  In the midst of another slow week I was glad to see this moth and headed in to grab a specimen jar.  However, before I could get to the door a scrawny little Chipping Sparrow jumped up out of the grass by the wall, grabbed my Catocala moth and took off.

A few luckier moths that I caught before the birds did.

Beloved Emarginea - Emarginea percara (#9718)
Forewing: 8mm
Also reported in Zone 3

Painted Lichen - Hypoprepia fucosa (#8090)
Forewing: 15mm
Also reported in Zones 3,5

Notch-winged Wave - Idaea furciferata (#7108)
Forewing: 7mm
Also reported in Zones 1,3,4

Once Again, Not a Moth
One of my co-workers brought me this one this week and it is too cool not to share.

Eastern Hercules Beetle - Dynastes tityus

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Week 21: Summer Slump

Things have been really slow this week just a few moth of note this week.

Magdalen Underwing - Catocala illecta (#8840)
Forewing: 30mm
Also reported in Zone 5

Washed-out Zale - Zale metatoides (#8707)
Forewing:  21mm
This species has a partial ST line and a grayish band at the basal end of the wing as best as I could tell from the information available.

Tobacco Budworm Moth - Heliothis virescens (#11071)
Forewing:  14mm
Also reported in Zones 3,5
This species is distinguished from the similar H. subflexa where the ST line runs to the apex of the wing.

While the moths have been slow this week I have had some very interesting beetles at the lights this week.  The first one looked like a cricket but was patterned like a wasp.  With a little bit of research I have identified it as a Longhorn Beetle in the genus Neoclytus.
N. mucronatus

Another Longhorn Beetle that visited the lights this week, while colorful, can be a vector for Dutch Elm Disease.

Elm Borer - Saperda tridentata

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Week 20: Common Buttonbush

I first became acquainted with the Common Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) when I began photographing butterflies.  I remember my first 4th of July Butterfly Count sitting on the edge of the lake at Daingerfield State Park and watching the procession of butterflies that would visit those funny spherical flowers.  So when we moved to our current house I was ecstatic to find two nice large buttonbush trees by the pond.

This week I noticed that they have started blooming and are attracting a wonderful variety of butterflies.
Spicebrush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus) with its missing orange spot.
Horace's Duskywing (Erynnis horatius)
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus

Knowing how much butterflies liked the nectar I figured moths would to; so I set out on a night visit to the pond and was not disappointed.

The most common moth by far was this drab little Pyralid that I have not been able to identify yet.

Maple Looper Moth - Parallelia bistriaris (#8727)
Forewing: 18mm

Little Nymph Underwing - Catocala micronympha (#8876)
Forewing: 22mm
Also reported in Zones 3,5

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Week 19: Underwings

Moth of the Week: Catocala Underwings
An incredibly striking family with rather drab forewings and boldly marked hindwings.  There are more than a hundred Underwings in the US but only about 30 are likely in East Texas.

Ilia Underwing

Clinton's Underwing
Precious "Texarkana" Underwing

Connubial Underwing

Connubial Underwing
(Note the brown ST band)

 Ultronia Underwing

Using information available on BugGuide and MPG I have compiled a quick reference of the most likely Underwings in East Texas based on size, season and hindwing color.

Hodges Name Forewing Season Hindwing Color
8770 The Betrothed 25-35mm June-September Orange
8771 The Penitent 35-45mm July-November Orange
8772 Consort Underwing 25-30mm January-July Orange
8773 Epione Underwing 20-25mm June-August Black
8774 Little Wife Underwing 25-35mm May-July Red
8786 Sappho Underwing 30-35mm May-July Black
8787 Aggripina Underwing 35mm May-July Black
8792 Widow Underwing 35-45mm July-October Black
8793 Sad Underwing 40-50mm April-November Black
8794 Tearful Underwing 30-40mm July-October Black
8795 Oldwife Underwing 30-35mm June-October Red
8798 The Bride 35-40mm June-September Red
8801 Ilia Underwing 30-40mm June-September Red
8801.1 Catocala umbrosa 20mm April-August Red
8832.1 Carissima Underwing 35-45mm July-October Red
8834 The Sweetheart 35-45mm July-September Red
8835 Delilah Underwing 25mm May-September Orange
8840 Catocala illecta 30mm May-July Yellow-orange
8842 Married Underwing 20-25mm June-September Yellow
8849 Gloomy Underwing 20-25mm May-August Black
8850 Herodias Underwing 25-30mm June-August Red
8851 Scarlet Underwing 20mm May-August Red
8857 Ultronia Underwing 20-30mm April-September Red
8859 Precious "Texarkana" Underwing 20-25mm May-June Orange
8863 Wonderful Underwing 20-25mm July-August Orange
8864 Woody Underwing 20-25mm June-August Orange
8869 Alabama Underwing 35mm May-August Orange
8872 Clinton's Underwing 20-25mm May-July Orange
8873 Similar Underwing 20mm May-July Orange
8874 Little Underwing (minuta) 20mm May-September Orange
8876 Little Underwing (Micronympha) 15-20mm May-September Orange
8877 Connubial Underwing 15-20mm May-August Orange
8878 Girlfriend Underwing 15-20mm May-August Orange
8878.1 Little Lined Underwing 15-20mm July-August Orange

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Week 18: A Weekend in Nacogdoches

This past weekend we spent a few wonderful days at Stag Leap Country Inn just outside of Nacogdoches.  This Bed and Breakfast is unlike any that I have been to before; instead of a single house there are several cabins spread out over 200 acres.  The land is covered in rich mixed forest making it a wonderful place for hiking, birding [Stag Leap is part of the Prairie and Pineywoods Birding Trail PPW-E 011] or, yes, even mothing.  Our cabin had two nice porch lights that attracted quite a few interesting moths.

Io Moth - Automeris io (#7746)
Forewing: 35mm
Also reported in Zones 3,4,5,6
Caution: Caterpillars of the Io Moth can sting (Read more at eXtension)
A closely related species A. louisiana occurs on the Upper Texas Coast but lacks markings on the forewings.

Tulip-tree Beauty - Epimecis hortaria (#6599)
While the markings on this moth can vary widely, the strongly scalloped hind wings are a key characteristic.

 Forewing: 28mm
 Forewing: 25mm

Giant Leopard Moth - Hypercompe scribonia (#8146)
Forewing: 35mm
Also reported in Zones 3,4,5,6
This is perhaps the most readily identified moth after Luna Moth. On some individuals the spots are filled but they can still be distinguished from the Wood Leopard Moth (Zeuzera pyrina) by the white on the legs.

Ultronia Underwing - Catocala ultronia (#8857)
Forewing: 28mm
Unlike most underwings the forewing pattern of C. ultronia runs from the base to the tip of the wing instead of across the back.

One more unusual Moth (from Rusk County)
Trumpet Vine Moth - Clydonopteron sacculana  (#5563)
Forewing: 10mm

Moth Poetry
In school this week my son had to write a poem about something that flies.  He said everyone else was doing birds and airplanes and he wanted to be different.  So he wrote a poem about moths.

flying in the dark
finding the light
landing by the light
waiting for the next night

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Week 17: Zales

Moth of the Week: Zales

On Tuesday night the Zales made a flight; when I stepped out to check the porchlight I was bombarded by them.  By Wednesday morning I counted  more than 40 of these large moths hanging around our porchlight: on the walls, on the steps, even in the trashcans.  The Zales are a large and rather challenging group of moths due to the extreme variation of the colors and patterns. 

The Lunate Zale (Zale lunata) is the largest and most common Zale species in our area.  Z. lunata is generally dark overall with heavy barring across the back.
Forewing: 24mm

This specimen shows large clean patches on the forewing.  I believe the is Z. lunata but am not ruling out Colorful Zale (Zale minerea) due to my lack of experience with this species.  There are approximately 14 species of Zale possible in East Texas and there is a lot of overlap in pattern and coloring between them.
Forewing: 18mm
This individual stood out from the rest due to its smaller size overall and the extensive white in the wings.  I have tentatively labeled this specimen as Double-banded Zale (Zale calycanthata) but am waiting on confirmation.

Other Moths This Week:

Melsheimer's Sack-bearer Moth - Cicinnus melsheimeri (#7662)
Forewing: 20mm

White-lined Sphinx - Hyles lineata (#7894)
Forewing: 33mm
Also reported in Zones 1,2,3,4,5,6

Indomitable Melipotis - Melipotis indomita (#8600)
Forewing: 24mm
Also reported in Zones 1,3,4,5,6
This is the most common and wide spread Melipotis moth in the state.

Not a Moth (but still relevant)
One of my fellow teachers brought me the big hairy fly and asked if it was dangerous.  I haven't studied flies much (at all), but figured I'd give it a shot.  In a relatively short time I was able to narrow it down to Archytas sp. a family of flies common in fields and pastures across most of North America.  The larva of these flies are parasitoids of caterpillars.  They will lay eggs on the caterpillar and while the caterpillar is in the cocoon the fly larva will feed on the caterpillar and when the cocoon finally opens, surprise it's a fly.