Friday, July 8, 2011


My friend Patty has decided to study Lepidoptera, butterflies and moths, this summer. And sometimes she lets me tag along. One such occasion was last Sunday evening when we set up a sheet and some lights at the Rancocas Nature Center. We passed the time sipping wine and eating cheese waiting for the light to do its thing.

If you light it they will come. And they did, helped by some moth bait (rotting bananas, molasses, and beer; yummy!) courtesy of Patty's friend Jenn.

This one is Halysidota tessellaris aka the banded tussock moth. (As with all images on this blog, click it to bigafy.)

Moth ID is a bit of challenge. There are approximately 800 butterflies in North America north of Mexico, making for a fat but manageable field guide.

There are some 12,000 moths. That's fifteen fat field guides. And unfortunately there are no real good up to date field guides for moths. Fortunately, there is the internet. And BugGuide.

BugGuide is "an online community of naturalists who enjoy learning about and sharing our observations of insects, spiders, and other related creatures." In other words, crowd sourced identification. My H. tessellaris was identified by John Maxwell, a BugGuide contributor who lives not fifteen miles from me. Small world.

This fellow is yet to be identified. Feel free to let me know in the comments.

This one is a bit trickier. John thinks it is a member of the genus Acrolophus, the tubeworm moths, albeit a worn individual. Another BugGuide contributor who goes by the handle TurtleDude goes further, calling it an eastern grass-tubeworm moth.

John thinks this one is also in Acrolophus. 


I took a number of other images, but none good enough to share. As no insects (except mosquitos!) were harmed in this adventure, and since moths don't listen when told to sit still and pose, I managed a good number of blurry pictures of half a moth. It was frustrating at times but I had fun doing it.

So thanks to Patty for suggesting it; Jenn for the bait; our host Barb, who lives at the Rancocas Nature Center (how cool is that!) who opened her home to human and insect alike; Susan and John who brought the pizza. As well as to John and TurtleDude for the ID suggestions.

It was fun, and I can't wait to give it another go.

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