Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Campaea perlata - Pale Beauty

This moth, while not exactly colourful, is none the less a truly beautiful example of a geometrid moth.

The pale wings and pale but defined lines are just so delicate and clean.  This moth really does deserve its common name of "Pale Beauty."

Even though it is classified as common, I don't see these very often.  This one was photographed on August 14.  I have seen perhaps 2 or 3 since then.

The larvae are known to feed on the leaves of 65 species of both coniferous and deciduous trees and shrubs, including blueberries.  Since I live in what is often referred to as "blueberry country," I am surprised I don't see these more often!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Schizura unicornis - Unicorn Caterpillar Moth

Such a fanciful common name has been applied to this little moth!  It stems from the fact that the larval stage of this moth has a horn-like protrusion from its body.  I only managed to get one decent photograph of the moth, but it certainly was sufficient to identify it.

What struck me as unusual about this moth was the angle at which it held its wings while sitting on my wall.  It has a very striking angle, as if it's preparing for take-off!

I snapped this one on August 12, and that's normal for this moth - it does appear later in the season.

The larvae feed on a wide range of plants and trees, including alder, apple, aspen, birch, elm, hawthorn, hickory and willow.  There is plenty of alder on my farm, as well as aspen, apple and birch, not to mention elm.  No wonder it decided my place was a good spot to hang out!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Feltia herilis - Master's Dart Moth

This beauty is a later-season moth around my area - at least, that's what I've noticed in terms of their appearance on my wall.  The Master's Dart moth almost looks like it is wearing a ball gown with gold detailing on a black surface.  Perhaps it's a black cape, with gold symbols to indicate superpowers?!

It's so difficult to get the photographs to show the shimmer that dusts the wings of this moth.
This was my first sighting of F. herilis, and it was on August 12. Since then, I've seen several of them after they've been attracted to my porch light.

Unfortunately, the larvae is a type of cutworm.  It feeds on over 40 different plant species.  Nonetheless, I think the moth is stunning, and I share all the moths I find here, so it deserves its place as much as any other!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dryocampa rubicunda (Rosy Maple Moth)

This startlingly bright moth certainly caught my attention when I spotted it on the wall outside the house.  It is commonly called the Rosy Maple Moth, but I would really prefer to call it the Strawberry Vanilla Swirl Moth, because it looks like an ice cream sundae to me!
Quite honestly, it hardly looks real!  It looks like something that someone might create as a stuffed animal version of a moth, with the hope of appealing to young girls with bedrooms decorated in pink.  It's fuzzy yellow thorax and pink legs are just charming!
When I spotted it, it was sitting with a friend.  I'm not sure what species the friend is, but it probably is quite envious of the colourful outfit sported by the Rosy Maple Moth.
As you might have guessed from the name, the larvae of this moth eat maple leaves, but also they eat sycamore, beech and oak.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Lophocampa maculata (Spotted Tussock Moth)

This is Lophocampa maculata, and as you can see from the pictures, the markings can vary somewhat in both design and intensity of colour in the paler and darker individuals below.

I see this moth quite frequently, although usually the ones I see are males.  More recently, I was able to capture a female of the species and keep it in a paper bag for a couple of nights.  Why would I do such a thing?

Well, I'm actually participating in a "citizen science" project supporting the research of a scientist who is studying this moth, and variations in the larval form of it.  I saved the moth in the bag for 2 nights to allow it to lay eggs, which I was then able to send to the researcher.  I keep track of when I see this species and send a note to the researcher with a photograph, in order to support his record-keeping.

It's exciting to be able to contribute information to a project just by watching what happens right outside my front door.

Here's a picture of my captured female (who was released following her egg laying).
The larval form of this species feeds on poplar and willow leaves, as well as other native species including alder, birch, maple and oak.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sphinx poecila (Northern Apple Sphinx)

Today's moth is the lovely Sphinx poecila, which I spotted on the red wood trim around my front door.  This large moth is quite distinct, with its fuzzy black thorax and the checkerboard pattern along the edge of the wings.  I really like the way that its colour matches the weathered wood underneath the old paint!
The larvae of this species feed on apple and blueberry leaves, which are abundant in my area.  They also feed upon meadowsweet (Spirea spp.), spruce and tamarack, which are also common around here.  I'm surprised I haven't seen this moth more frequently.  The adults of this species also feed, but they drink nectar from flowers. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Ceratomia undulosa - variation on a theme

Even within a single species of moth, there can be a great deal of variation in markings and colouring.  Here are some images of C. undulosa that I've captured recently, showing how much they differ. C. undulosa has the common name of the "Waved Sphinx" moth, as a result of its wavy-lined markings.

The larvae feed on ash, oak and other woody species, but the adults do not feed.

This image is an example of a clearly marked individual with all the expected wavy lines and the white reniform spots on the forewings.  This one is relatively easy to identify using standard field guides.

By comparison, this next individual is quite dark, which makes the white spots more distinct.  You can still clearly see the wavy lines and the checkered edges of the forewings.  Despite its differences, it's still relatively easy to identify this moth as C. undulosa.
This individual was waiting for me this morning.  It was actually a little larger than the other two I'd photographed, and confounded me for a while on the ID, until I received some help from an expert on Bug Guide.  This, too, is C. undulosa.  However, this individual is very faintly marked.  You can scarcely see any of the expected wavy lines, and the checkered wing edge is absent.  The white reniform spots are there, but only very faintly. The darker slash marks on the wings are a helpful identifier, but without the other markings, I was really stymied by this one.  Next time I see a different individual in this species, hopefully I'll be able to identify it!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Lappet Moth - Phyllodesma americana

Today's moth is a small brown moth that isn't startlingly beautiful or particularly attention-grabbing, but in my opinion, it is a moth emulating the appearance of a small hedgehog.  The shape of its head and the way its wing has a slightly scalloped appearance along the top edge give it that snuffling hedgehog look.
It may be hard to tell from this close-up, but this moth also looks rather like a brown dried leaf at first glance.  

Speaking of leaves, the larvae feed on alder, poplar, birch, oak and willow leaves, among others.  It's a fairly common moth throughout much of North America.  This was was spotted on June 1st, 2013.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Plagodis keutzingi - The Purple Plagodis

This little moth goes by the very fanciful common name of The Purple Plagodis.  To me, it sounds like an architectural feature of some kind.  Imagine the description of the trim on an old Victorian house - a profusion of white scrollwork detail, topped with a purple plagodis.  Doesn't that sound appropriate?

Here's the real thing - not quite so grand as its name might suggest, but still a lovely species.
I spotted it on my porch light on the morning of June 24.

The larvae feed on ash trees, which are abundant in this area.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sphinx kalmiae - Laurel Sphinx

This stunning Sphinx kalmiae was waiting to be photographed on the wall outside my door this morning.

I used the tip of my finger to gently move the forewing in order to expose the striped hindwing.  The wingspan of this beauty can exceed 4 inches!

The larval stage of this moth feeds on laurel (Kalmia latifolia), giving the moth its common name.  Other food species for the larvae include ash and poplar trees, fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus), privet, and mountain holly.  The adult moth drinks nectar from bouncing bet (Saponaria officinalis) and Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica).