The dark of night is underrated for fun in the field. It's black out there, true, and harder to see stuff. But there are ways around that; they're called flashlights. I think many people may shy away from roaming about after dark because people generally have an inherent fear of a night unlit by lots of artificial candlepower. Scratches, wheezes, snuffling and shuffling, and the occasional roar or howl build in our minds until they become the bogeyman or perhaps Bigfoot himself.
One way around the fear factor is to go out in bunches, as in the photo above. This was our nocturnal foray last Saturday night, as part of the same workshop that produced the incredible pink katydid. Led by Dr. Dave Horn - center, facing camera, white short - our primary quarry were moths. Some success was met with.
What a beauty! We were thrilled to dredge up this Virgin Tiger Moth, Grammia virgo. There are several species in this neck of the woods, and perhaps you've seen one. They are quite distinctive as a group, although some species can look very similar. This one is a jumbo; the biggest of the lot. When on greenery such as above, they stick out like sore thumbs. But, while at rest on more desirable dead vegetation they'll be pert nigh near impossible to detect.
Dave told us of observations where chickadees would encounter an Io and get the evil eye treatment. "EEK" and back they'd flutter, but eventually glancing back to see what the eyed giant is doing. Well, the moth isn't in pursuit, so the chickadee would muster its courage and hop back for another probe. Eyes. EEK! But, each time this happened, the chickadee would be less frightened until the fateful encounter when it finally learned that the moth with the spooky eyes couldn't eat it. Chickadee scores plump fuzzy meal - Io's evolutionary eyespot advantage fails.
I suspect that the Io eye flash does indeed work just fine and many instances, though, and startles would be moth-eaters enough that they back right off and get out of Dodge.
We're revising our opinion of the status of this largely tropical butterfly in Ohio. It was not long ago considered rather rare, and nearly absent some years. Not anymore. The last several years have seen many Cloudless Sulphurs appearing, sometimes in large numbers, and frequently attempting to reproduce. Steadily warming mean temperatures would seem to be a good hypothesis to explain their upward spike.
The sulphurs created a hubbub. When our group spotted them, we yelled to the other groups, and soon nearly everyone had assembled. In the video above, photographer David Fitzsimmons gets down to eye level with the beautiful butterflies. You can see one of the Cloudless Sulphurs take to the air at the very beginning of the video.