Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mothapalooza updates!

Mothapalooza is a field trip-based celebration of moths the likes of which the world has never seen! Well, I don't really know if that's a fact, but it is going to be an awesome extravaganza, of that I can assure you. We entered into the hatching and planning of this event with a slight bit of trepidation, not absolutely knowing if there would be enough moth enthusiasts to draw much of a crowd. Our fears have already been largely allayed. Even though Mothapalooza doesn't take place until the distant weekend of June 14-16, 70 people have already signed on. We can only accommodate about 120 folks, so register soon.
Obviously, moths will be a huge part of the aptly named Mothapalooza, but there's more, much more. The conference is based at the lodge in Shawnee State Park, which is surrounded by 60,000+ acres of state forest. A crow's caw to the west is the 15,000 acre Edge of Appalachia Preserve. We'll be exploring throughout this incredibly rich region, which is loaded with cool and rare plants, interesting breeding birds galore, and blizzards of moths. Bring extra cards for your camera.
We are excited to have bugman extraordinaire Eric Eaton on board and leading trips. That's Eric, in green shirt and cap, facing away from the camera. Eric is the principal author of the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, which is the people's favorite when it comes to easy to use references for identifying insects. Eaton was in the midst of teaching a wasp workshop when I took this photo. The building in the backdrop will be one of our moth-trapping sites at the Edge of Appalachia Preserve. We'll get all kinds of cool stuff at this site.

Doing its best to look like a bird dropping, albeit a rather cute bird dropping, is this Beautiful Wood-Nymph, Eudryas grata. It is but one of scores of interesting moth species that we'll see during Mothapalooza.

Mr. Caterpillar himself, David Wagner, will be a major part of the scene. That's Dave, far right, in the midst of beating interesting caterpillars from the foliage of those stunning Marsh Rose Mallow plants. Dave is a whiz when it comes to moth ID, too. Rich McCarty and Pete Whan are to Dave's left. They work for the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and manage the Edge of Appalachia Preserve, and both will be helping with Mothapalooza. To the rear and sporting a headband is John Howard, an extraordinary naturalist whose photos I've shared many times on this blog. Nothing will escape detection and naming by this crew.

This is one of the numerous cool and interesting caterpillars that we should see: the Unexpected Cycnia, Cycnia inopinatus, a rarity in Ohio. They prefer to snack on Butterfly-weed, and match the flower color of that milkweed quite well.

In addition to numerous common moths, we'll dredge up some rarities such as this Coppery Orbexilum Moth, Hystricophora loricana, a species of very limited distribution.

We've even got the president of the Ohio Lepidopterists onboard with Mothapalooza, Dave Horn. This is Dave, standing in one of Adams County's prairie barrens. These sites are loaded with RARE THINGS, and we'll be checking them out. There are many other topflight experts working with Mothapalooza - too many to name in this blog without creating a small telephone book. Check the Mothapalooza website to see who's who.

Most moths are utterly stunning, although often on a tiny scale. This is a common species and one that we ought to see, the Common Spragueia, Spragueia leo. One of the Mothapalooza workshops focuses on photography, and John Howard and I will be conducting that session. We'll try to share some tips and tricks for capturing moths great and small on pixels, in all kinds of conditions including the black of night.

Thanks to the work of Cheryl Harner, who will also be helping, we've enticed lepidopterist Jaret Daniels up from Florida. Jaret knows butterflies - he literally wrote the book, Butterflies of Ohio. We'll not only be out after dark moth-seeking. Daytime trips will venture into some of the richest butterfly habitats north of the Ohio River.

Here's one of many specialty butterflies that we ought to turn up during Mothapalooza, the Juniper Hairstreak, Callophrys gryneus. This shot, and every photo in this post, was taken at the very sites that we'll be exploring during Mothapalooza.

We are proud to be linked with the greatest effort to promote moths the world has ever seen, National Moth Week. Be sure and visit their site, HERE. Moths play an incredibly important role in earth's ecosystems, and education about the value of moths and their caterpillars is a huge part of NMW and Mothapalooza.

We are also indebted to our other sponsors: The Ohio Division of Wildlife, Flora-Quest, and Midwest Native Plant Society, as well the vital support of the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Cincinnati Museum Center.

If you're looking for an out-of-the-box experience that will be jampacked with interesting critters and plants in one of the most beautiful regions of Ohio, Mothapalooza is for you. See all of the details and registration info RIGHT HERE.

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