Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Moths and More Moths (and Moths Making More Moths)

The moths have been coming in droves to the porch light at night, which is great for me! I've always thought these creatures were cool, and I'm enjoying learning new species and seeing the great diversity of patterns and shapes on these guys. Here's a sampling of some of the moths who've come to visit over the past few nights!

First up is one of the flashiest moths I've encountered, but one that's also extremely easy to miss (and difficult for me to get a clear picture of) because it's so small. This is Suzuki's Promolactis Moth (Promalactis suzukiella), and it's only about half a centimeter long:

When I showed this picture to Paul, he said the moth looked like a Clown Fish, and I have to agree. The strange thing about this moth, though, is that it's not supposed to be here.... This is a species that people only started finding in North America in the last several years (since around 2003), and it's native to Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. In fact, this species is such a new arrival over here that scientists are still getting a handle on it, and its range is uncertain. As I was researching this species, I couldn't find any sources that placed its range as far north as Connecticut, so I ended up submitting my sighting to BugGuide.net and Butterflies and Moths of North America -- it's a small contribution to science, but who knows, maybe the information will be useful to somebody somewhere!

Here's another dinky moth, Striped Eudonia (Eudonia strigalis) -- what a great polka-dotted pattern it has:

We're getting into the normal sized moths now; all the rest in these pictures are about an inch or so long. This one, with its draped-cloak wing pattern is (I think) a Master's Dart (Feltia herilis):

Here's a Baltimore Hypena (Hypena baltimoralis):

And a very pretty geometrid moth, Confused Eusarca (Eusarca confusaria) -- why "confused," I don't know:

This (probable) Forage Looper (Caenurgina erechtea) was extraordinarily active for a moth. It would stop flying and alight on the ground for only about a second at a time, almost always just enough time for me to focus my camera but not to get a picture. This picture came from one of those rare moments when the moth took a slightly longer rest:

And actually, it was entertaining to watch this hyperactive moth jumping and flitting around. I quite enjoy this picture I happened to get on on one of its many take-offs, its wings just about to grab and pull at the air:

I couldn't figure out this next moth without the help of a nice person at BugGuide.net. It had some lovely (but subtle) markings on its wings and a nice shaggy orange mane:

It turns out that this is an Isabella Tiger Moth (Pyrrharctia isabella), and it's the adult form of the much-loved (oh-so-cuddly) woolly bear caterpillar! Who knew?

Just because I could (hooray for glass doors), here's a picture of this moth's fuzzy belly:

On Sunday night, Paul and I spotted something really weird: a moth (species unknown) laying eggs on the outside of our kitchen window. This seems like such a bad idea -- what are the babies going to eat when they hatch? -- but I guess the moth probably knows what it's doing better than I do! I had a hard time figuring out how to get a good picture of this strange and fascinating process, but eventually I got the following video using a flashlight and Paul's little (but powerful) Canon PowerShot: (If you click to watch this video on YouTube, you can enlarge it to full screen and it actually doesn't look too bad.)

It looks like the moth was alternating between depositing eggs and stretching out layers of some silk-like substance to secure her clutch. I love how precisely she's placed all of those teeny tiny eggs, just so. By the next morning, the finished product looked like this:

I wonder what will happen when those babies hatch!

Update: The eggs hatched after five days -- pictures here.

It's a real parade of awesome creatures out there. Still no really big moths yet, but these small- and medium-sized ones are definitely cool, too!


  1. Such diversity! I love your phrase "moths making more moths" - in Georgia that's what I always told middle school students when we caught two animals in the act. "What are they doing?" "Well, they're... making more horseshoe crabs." "Ohhhh."

  2. I wandered here via Google. I was trying to find out what had seemed to have hatched on my kitchen window. I had noticed a sort of golden "patch" on our kitchen window that seemed to be encased in fluffy silk. If I looked closely enough, I could see there were tiny spherical objects within, which I immediately guessed where some kind of insect eggs. The image posted seems to confirm this. They've hatched now into many very small larva. They are rather slow-moving and not icky like fly maggots.

    The whole time I've wanted to destroy them; I find their presence to be "itchy". Perhaps it's evolutionary psychology prompting me to prevent an infestation. However, my conscience got the best of me -- why annihilate something offspring just because it looks gross?