Saturday, July 25, 2020

An incredible mothing night: Part II

Picking up where I left off in the last post - mothing at the Highlands Nature Sanctuary in Highland County, Ohio - here's another apparent dead leaf mimic, the White-dotted Prominent, Nadata gibbosa. As a caterpillar it is an oak feeder, and when the moth is perched on old oak leaf litter, as this animal is, it blends quite well.

A Holy Grail moth, and one we were excited to see. This bizarre oddity is a Harris's Three-spot, Harrisimemna trisignata. From certain angles it appears quite spider-like, as does its REALLY bizarre caterpillar. Not one, not two, but FOUR of these creatures came into the sheets. I'm normally doing well to see one a season.

This is the same three-spot photographed from the rear view. As someone suggested, it looks like a weird Dracula, cape outspread.

When there are several thousand moth species wafting around the state, it isn't hard to see a "life" moth. This is the Oystershell Metrea Moth, Cliniodes ostreonalis, and it was new to me. There are only two records for Ohio in iNaturalist, so apparently it's scarce in this region.

One of our most beautiful sphinx moths - and that's saying something! - the Hydrangea Sphinx, Darapsa versicolor. In my experience, it's not very frequent. Caterpillars feed on our (Ohio's) only native hydrangea, Wild Hydrangea, Hydrangea arborescens. Plenty of host plants were close at hand at this site.

Sphinx moths are excellent photographic fodder. This is a Pandorus Sphinx, Eumorpha pandorus, looking rather alienlike. It is a specialist on members of the grape family (Vitaceae). Grape and creeper species are keystone species in that they produce a large number of specialist moths, and are a pivotal part of food chains.

John Howard deployed his moth-wrangling skills, and created a sphinx wall of fame. From bottom left, clockwise, we have Ash Sphinx, Manduca jasminearum, Virginia Creeper Sphinx, Darapsa myron, Hydrangea Sphinx, Darapsa versicolor, Elm Sphinx, Ceratomia amyntor, and Azalea Sphinx, Darapsa choerilus.

As with the spinx moths, it was a red letter night for royal silkworm moths. This family is full of beauty, and its species are probably the biggest crowd-pleasers. This is a male Io Moth, Automeris io. We had many, but all were male. I rarely see females, for whatever reason. Maybe they just aren't attracted to lights very much. Ios are characterized by those huge eye spots. At rest, the moth folds its forewings in concealing the spots. Touch it, and the moth quickly flicks its wings open, and Voila! Big scary eyes. Probably an effective visual deterrent to small songbirds and other would-be predators.

This is usually the most frequent of the silkmoths, the Rosy Maple Moth, Dryocampa rubicunda. This night was no exception. Probably 15-20 came in. They are irresistible photo subjects.

While lacking the bright colors of the previous subject, the Tuliptree Silkmoth, Callosamia angulifera, is no less spectacular. This is a big one, the size of a small bat.

While walking between sheets and searching for caterpillars, Kim Banks found the caterpillar of another tuliptree feeder, the Tuliptree-beauty, Epimecis hortaria. This stout inchworm is noticeably thickened around the head. The moth that it becomes is an absolute master of bark mimicry. See THIS POST for an example.

Finally, towards the end of our night, John created yet another wall of fame, this one of four silkmoth species. We had no choice but to wait until late into the night to pose these moths. Silkmoths often do not appear until the wee hours. This night, the majority materialized between 1:30am and 3:30am, when we finally packed up.

From bottom left, clockwise: Tuliptree Silkmoth, Callosamia angulifera, Regal Moth, Citheronia regalis, Luna, Actias luna, and Imperial Moth, Eacles imperialis.

Moths are an excellent barometer of ecosystem health. When a night of mothing yields a haul such as documented in this post and the last (and there were scores of other species), the surrounding ecosystems are diverse, largely free of toxins, and supporting robust ecological webs. At this site, the conservation heavy lifting has been done by the Arc of Appalachia. This amazingly productive organization has now conserved about 7,000 acres of Ohio's richest wildlands. Read more about their work RIGHT HERE.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, beautiful! Thank you for sharing!
-Anne, MI (another moth enthusiast)

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