Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Moths, moths, and more moths

We didn't ignore the dark side of Ohio's Lepidoptera at the recent Appalachian Butterfly Conference. To do so would be to ignore the vast majority of flying scaled things. After all, there are about 135 species of butterflies known from Ohio, and an estimated 2,500 moths! The learning curve is huge with the latter group, and we were greatly aided by Dr. Dave Horn, Ohio's "Moth Man". Dave is Director of the Ohio Biological Survey, and extremely generous with his time and expertise. There were so many moths about, we found them perched about here and there, but the majority were caught by Dave's blacklight operation.
Following are a few highlights.
A random assortment. The big brown one is a Tulip Tree Silkmoth, Callosamia angulifera. It is pretty specific to Tulip Trees for a larval host plant, hence the common name. Next to it is a Luna Moth, Actias luna, which is utterly unmistakeable. We saw lots of them. The others? I don't know, and that's par for the course, at least with the little brown jobs, at least for a piker like myself.Closeup of a male Luna. The sexes can be told by their antenna, which in the case of the male is broad, feathery, and rather fernlike. They use them to detect female pheremones, sometimes from mind-boggling distances. The giant silkworm moths don't last long: they live for only a few days and their sole purpose is to mate and in the case of the female, lay eggs. They have no functional mouthparts and don't feed.
Luna caterpillar. We found and photographed these last year, near the spot where we captured the adult above. The cats are giant and rather showy.
Huckleberry Sphinx, Paonias astylis. This was a cool one, and a life moth for many. They feed on the several species of blueberries, Vaccinium, that occur in the forest, and presumably Huckleberry, Gaylusaccia baccata.
Rosy Maple Moths, Dryocampa rubicunda, are abundant generalists but always crowd pleasers. Their color scheme of pink and yellow is something not too often seen in nature, at least in these parts.

Thank again to Dave Horn for the experience!


Kathi said...


What eats Luna Moths? Bats? I find Luna wings regularly in the mornings, under the halogen light on my barn. I never get to see the living moths, and always wonder what eats them.


Jim McCormac said...

Hi Kathi,

Yep, bats are big consumers of Lunas and many other moths. We stood for a while under a bright parking lot light last Saturday night at Shawnee and marveled at the bats speeding through trying to nab moths. If successful, a pair of wings will flutter to the ground, as all they're interested in is the plump hotdog-like body.


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