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!