In addition to Dennis (he's got a GREAT blog, HERE) and Roger, we were joined by Wahkeena naturalist Robyn Wright-Strauss, longtime Wahkeena manager Tom Shisler, Alex Webb, and Lisa & Steve Sells. Lisa pushes the envelope of macro photography and her skills are extraordinary. Be sure to check her blog, HERE.
Profant, and Alex, are exceptionally knowledgeable regarding night-flying lepidoptera and this was an excellent opportunity for your narrator to expand his mothing horizons in the company of experts. We certainly weren't disappointed in what we saw. Wahkeena is full of interesting and diverse habitats, and it follows that it would host moths galore. The blizzards of insects attracted to our lights is testimony to the place's lepidopteran diversity, and following is a pictorial whirl of some of our subjects.
Some species of moths are far flightier than others, while some are quite tame and easy to handle. Even some of the initially jumpy species settle down after being at the lights for a while and can then be handled and better posed for photographs.
HERE). Get a copy if you wish to advance your moth IQ. A modest sphinx (formerly big poplar sphinx), Pachysphinx modesta, poses obligingly by the field guide.
As the best conditions for moth photography are - duh - at night, this means it is necessary to hone one's skills with flash. For all of these photos, I was using my Panasonic FZ-50 point and shoot, with only its standard built-in flash unit. The trick is to use full manual settings, and greatly underexpose the camera settings, then let the flash compensate. It takes practice and experimentation, but can yield excellent results.
For camera buffs, I shot the above image at an f-stop of 5, at a shutter speed of 1/60 with the camera's ISO value at 100, and the camera's flash intensity at its weakest setting. Without the flash the image would have been black as coal.
THIS BOOK, the Slug Caterpillar Moths and other Zygaenoidea of Ohio (Dennis really isn't a total geek, I swear!). It is a yellow-shouldered slug moth, Lithacodes fasciola, and with only a cursory glance the moth doesn't look like much. Upon inspection it reveals a complex pattern along with showy gold and bronze coloration. The rather unsavory-sounding "slug" part of its name stems from the caterpillars. This species and its ilk have tiny caterpillars termed slugs, although in reality many of the slug cats actually outshine the adult moths in the looks department.
However, very few folks would probably recognize the abundant and widespread insect in its adult form, as an Isabella tiger moth, Pyrrharctia isabella. I've got scads of good woolly-bear caterpillar images, and was pleased to finally make some decent photos of the adult.
These jumbos look like bats when they flutter in, and they're every bit as big. Their appearance is double-edged sword, though. On one hand, the imperials are big, showy, exciting, and wonderful photo subjects. On the debit side, they are like bulls in a china shop when they hit the sheets, bouncing and fluttering about maniacally and scaring off many of the lesser moths. More ominously, the conspicuous presence of these giants can attract the attention of predators such as flying squirrels, and if the sheets are left unattended for a while one may return to find lots of shucked wings laying about.
Thanks to Tom and Robyn at Wahkeena for hosting us for this interesting evening, and to Dennis for setting things up and freely sharing his great expertise.