Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Confused Eusarca moths nectar at rare plant

Last Saturday evening, Cedar Bog hosted a moth night, headlined by speaker Chelsea Gottfried, coauthor of THIS BOOK. It was a great program, and Chelsea played to a packed house of about 55 people. Nightfall was settling in by the time her talk was done and illuminated mothing sheets had been strategically placed around the nature center.

I was equally interested in going into the heart of the large fen (Cedar "Bog" is actually a fen) and seeing what moths but by visiting the flowers in the fen meadows, many of which are rare in Ohio.

This is one of those rarities, the Wand Lily (Anticlea elegans), or as it is sometimes known, Death Camas. The latter stems from the toxicity of plants in this genus, and apparently the toxins are quite potent.

Shauna Weyrauch and I were more interested in moth flower visitors than plant toxicity on this night, but despite watching, saw no Lepidopteran visitors at the Wand Lily. I did later see an image from someone else of a moth nectaring at these flowers but could not tell what species from the image. I would have liked to have spent more time observing the Wand Lilies, but time was limited, and I thought that another species nearby would bear more mothy fruit.

This is Fen Indian-plantain (Arnoglossum plantagineum), and while quite the rarity in Ohio, there is plenty at Cedar Bog and it can form sizable drifts. It is a beautiful plant, and recognizing the family it belongs to as probably not intuitive for many people. Fen Indian-plantain, believe it or not, is a member of the massive Sunflower Family (Asteraceae).

It was in perfect bloom, and I figured that the luminescent white flowers would lure moths, so we spent much of our time observing the indian-plantain.

Bingo! A Confused Eusarca (Eusarca confusaria) taps nectar from the strange blooms. We saw a number of Confused Eusarcas doing so, as well as other moth species that I didn't manage photos of and did not identify. By the way, I do not know the story behind the "confused" part of the moth's moniker. They didn't look particularly confused to me, and I suspect it may have something to do with other similar species and humans' confusion over separating them.

Confused Eusarca caterpillars feed primarily on members of the Sunflower Family, and it may be that Fen Indian-plantain plays host to them. There are many other potential host plant candidates in Cedar Bog's meadows as well, and I would love to put in some more hours in the "bog" at night looking for nectaring moths.

If you want to experience Cedar Bog after dark, firefly expert Matthew Speights will be giving a program in the Cedar Bog visitor's center on July 6 at 730 pm. Afterwards, everyone will head afield to look for and learn about "lightning bugs". I can report that it looked like a laser light show in places last Saturday night due to prolific fireflies.

PHOTO NOTE: I have been regularly engaging in nocturnal photography for some time now and have hit upon a pretty bulletproof flash technique. It involves these settings: ISO 200, 1/200 second exposure, and f/13 or f/16 (a small aperture). The flash is either the Canon 600 EX II RT speedlite, or more commonly the Canon MT 26EX-RT Twinlites. The latter mount on a ring around the end of the lens barrel, and both lights - one on either side of the lens - can be adjusted independently. When the shutter is half tapped, subtle pre-lights come on on both flashes, providing enough light to focus. When the subject is locked on, fully depress the shutter and make the image. No need for clumsy flashlights or other auxiliary light sources to find and focus on the subject. my 100mm f/2.8L macro lens is the usual weapon of choice. With the flash set to TTL mode, it communicates with the camera and typically provides just about the perfect amount of light every time. I'd far rather focus on finding, approaching, and composing subjects that constantly fiddling with camera/flash settings. And light metering that I do is usually by adjusting the intensity of the flash itself, either adding or reducing light if needed.

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