Moths of Oklahoma's Notícias

17 de setembro de 2019

Moths in Hiding

Many creatures on this planet have evolved camouflage, and moths have some of the most impressive hiding techniques out there.

Bark


Let's face it, there's a lot of brown moths. Most of these are brown because they spend the daylight hours lying still on dead leaves or on tree bark. The Underwing moths (Genus Catocala) are especially good at hiding on bark, which is important since they can be quite large and would be a nice catch for many birds. The Underwings pull off their camouflage with base colors of gray and brown overlaid with darker ruptive markings that mimic patches of bark. Here are a few outstanding examples:


Widow Underwing (Catocala vidua) and Ilia Underwing (Catocala ilia) observed by @lmm3629. Catocala sp. observed by @arrowheadspiketail58.


Sad Underwing (Catocala maestosa) observed by @kboeg; Ilia Underwing (Catocala ilia) observed by @vicfazio3.

It may be clear that these are moths perched on bark when you're looking at a cropped photo, but standing back just a foot or two it is easy to lose sight of these moths altogether and have trouble finding them again.


Sad Underwing (Catocala maestosa) observed by @lmm3629; Sad Underwing (Catocala maestosa) observed by @israels_walks.


Ilia Underwing (Catocala ilia) observed by @heytheremacie; Tearful Underwing (Catocala lacrymosa) observed by @i268021.

Of course, Underwings derive their name from their very flashy lower set of wings. I believe this flash of color is meant to startle a potential predator when the moth takes flight, helping them evade capture.

Bird droppings


This next group of moths doesn't try to blend in. Instead, these moths hide during the day by resting on leaves and pretending they're something else that happens to be seen on leaves - bird droppings. There are a surprising number of moths that use this ruse and derive their names from their form of disguise. Here are a few examples:


Small Bird-dropping Moth (Ponometia erastrioides) observed by Buddy (
@salticidude)


Olive-shaded Bird-dropping Moth (Ponometia candefacta) also observed by Buddy

Notice that these first two species are from the same genus (Ponometia) in the Noctuidae family, which means they are closely related and it should be no surprise that they both evolved this clever disguise. The next species shown below is from an entirely different family of moths (Depressariidae), which shows that this trait evolved separately. This is a classic example of convergent evolution.


Schlaeger's Fruitworm Moth (Antaeotricha schlaegeri) observed by Matt (
@teriyaki12)


Exposed Bird Dropping Moth (Tarache aprica) observed by Victor W. Fazio III (
@vicfazio3)

While I want to focus on Oklahoma moths, I have to point out that there is even a moth in Malaysia that has patterns that look like flies overlaid on white (bird droppings). After having seen a pair of flies mating on bird droppings, this seems like a pretty good disguise.


Macrocilix maia
observed by @paraggiri

Leaves


Many moths blend in well on either living or dead leaves. In fact, the Herminiinae subfamily of moths are known as "Litter Moths" because many of the caterpillars feed on dead leaves, what is known as "leaf litter." These moths are mostly triangle shaped and various shades of brown to blend in with dead leaves lying on the ground.


As yet unidentified Litter Moth observed by @strix_v and Renia sp. observed by Bill Carrell (@arrowheadspiketail58)/


Bleptina sangamonia observed by @strix_v and Speckled Renia (Renia adspergillus) observed by Emily Hjalmarson (@ehjalmarson).


Bent-winged Owlest (Bleptina caradrinalis) observed by Emily Hjalmarson and @david1415.

These next three are not from the "litter moths" subfamily, but they also evolved to mimic a dead leaf. Again, convergent evolution at play.


Red-lined Panopoda (Panopoda rufimargo) observed by Bill Carrell.


Obtuse Euchlaena Moth (Euchlaena obtusaria) observed by @strix_v.


White-dotted Prominent (Nadata gibbosa) I observed.

Looking at all of these dead leaf mimics makes me wonder if the moths are cognitively aware of their safest perching spots due to their coloration or if they are simply evolved to blend into their favorite perching spots.


Rick spotted this Green Cloverworm (Hypena scabra) blending in quite well on a dead leaf still hanging from the tree.

The beautiful Luna Moth likes to rest up in the trees among the leaves and does a great job of appearing like a leaf, even trembling in the breeze just like a leaf would. That being said, I had trouble finding an Oklahoma observation of this species clinging to a branch with leaves. Most of the observations are on the side of buildings or other structures where the moth is very conspicuous. I have two thoughts about this:
1. It sucks for the Luna that humans have introduced so many perching spots that aid predators in seeing them.
2. This is where people are seeing Luna Moths, but maybe there are lots more successfully hiding in the trees.


Luna Moths (Actias luna) observed by
@anhe


Luna Moth observed among Poison Ivy by Rick

There are also a number of day-flying moths with pink and yellow colors on their wings. I assume this is mostly to blend in on flowers they may be visiting, but they also blend in rather nicely on the fallen leaves of peach trees, don't you think? I intentionally posed these two moths on these leaves from my yard to see how well the effect works.


Chickweed Geometer Moth (Haematopis grataria) posed on peach tree leaves


Southern Purple Mint Moth (Pyrausta laticlavia) posed on peach tree leaves

Other


Here are a few other miscellaneous disguises we've seen in Oklahoma, including moths perched on twigs and cinder blocks.


Green Cloverworm Moth (Hypena scabra) found on the twigs of a shrub


Brown-shaded Gray (Iridopsis defectaria) perched on a cinder block

As I pointed out in the last blog post, you can apply Observation Fields to your observations to make them even more useful. One relevant Observation Field for this discussion is "Camouflage." When you select this field you will be provided with a drop down box to select how good (in your opinion) the camouflage is. I have been filling in this field on my observations of camouflaged critters.

Publicado em 17 de setembro de 2019, 03:33 PM por zdufran zdufran | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

11 de setembro de 2019

Species Profile: Ailanthus Webworm Moth

One of our most common moths in Oklahoma is the Ailanthus Webworm Moth (Atteva aurea). In fact, this moth is found throughout much of the United States. But it hasn't always been so...

The original host plants of this species, Paradise Tree (Simarouba amara) and the closely related Simarouba glauca, are native to south Florida and Cuba. This was the original native range of the Ailanthus Webworm Moth. However, a closely related tree from China named the Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) has been widely introduced in North America and this moth has found it to be a perfectly good host plant as well. Therefore, the moth has spread geographically with the introduction of the Tree of Heaven. It is so closely tied to its adopted host plant that it derives its common name from that tree rather than its original host plants. If you live in Oklahoma, chances are that birds have deposited a seed of the Tree of Heaven somewhere in your neighborhood.


Paradise Tree (Simarouba amara), one of the original host plants of this moth, observed by Joshua Sands (@jcs13) in the Florida keys.


Simarouba glauca, the second original host plant of this moth, observed by Jacob Malcom (@jacobogre) in the Florida keys.


Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) observed by me in Oklahoma.

This colorful little moth catches many people's eye when they see it resting on a leaf or underneath their porch light. At first glance, most people wouldn't identify it as a moth at all. Maybe it's a gateway moth, enticing some people who would otherwise never think of themselves as interested in moths. They see the Ailanthus and just have to know what it is. Once they find out it's a moth, maybe some of those people will be interested to find out more about moths. Anyway, one could hope!

Publicado em 11 de setembro de 2019, 03:21 PM por zdufran zdufran | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

05 de setembro de 2019

Mating Moths

I've made A LOT of observations on iNat over the last 3 years. So it's not surprising that some of the creatures I have photographed happened to be in the act of mating.

Not to be perverse, but I am always happy when I come across this for a variety of reasons. One reason is that it provides an opportunity to see sexual dimorphism in plain sight since you know you are looking at a male and a female. It is easy to discern different sizes and coloration between the two genders when they are literally attached to one another.


Fall Webworm Moths (Hyphantria cunea) mating

This spring I noticed a lot of variability in the extent of black dots on Fall Webworm Moths and after I saw a couple mating I suspect that maybe sexual dimorphism is the reason. The male has more black dots than the female. I know because after this interaction the female laid her eggs.


Dimorphic Snout Moths (Hypena bijugalis) mating
- observed by Rick Parker.


Garden Webworms (Achyra rantalis) mating.

The Dimorphic Snout lives up to its name: the female has strongly contrasting colors, while the male is mostly brown (two above). Garden Webworms also have some color differences between male and female (above). And there is definitely a size difference between the male and female Waterlily Leafcutter Moths (below), while the Deadwood Borer male and female look much more similar (two below).


Waterlily Leafcutter Moths (Elophila obliteralis) mating


Deadwood Borer Moths (Scolecocampa liburna) mating - observed by Rick Parker (
@rdparker)

What else can we learn when we observe creatures copulating? Well, we learn a little bit about their breeding cycle. When they are breeding tells us when their most productive season of the year is - when their food is most readily available. Most birds breed in the spring in time that their eggs will hatch when their primary food source (be it earthworms, caterpillars of our beloved moths, or crawdads) are plentiful. For moths, the food source is going to be various species of plants. A moth that is found mating in early Spring or late Fall must feed on vegetation with a long growing season or could be a generalist - a species that isn't too picky about what it eats.


Clemens' Grass Tubeworms (Acrolophus popeanella) are absolutely thick this time of year (August and early September). Leah (@leahn19) and Rick (@rdparker) have both found pairs mating recently. According to bugguide, as larva this species feeds on the roots of Red Clover (Trifolium pratense). I'm guessing they feed on more than that since we find so many of these in our residential neighborhoods and there isn't any red clover growing in this area. Maybe they also feed on White Clover (Trifolium repens)?


Forest Tent Caterpillar Moths (Malacosoma disstria) mating

I've also learned a little about the speed of the life cycle of a few species of moths. I found a cocoon of a Forest Tent Caterpillar back in April and kept it in a jar until the moth eclosed. I was lucky enough to see the moth leaving the cocoon on May 24. I released the moth outdoors on the patio and just a few hours later a male moth flew in and they were mating (as seen above). Wow - that's quick! Once the mating was complete, the male's purpose was fulfilled. Once the female laid her eggs, her purpose was fulfilled. I wouldn't be surprised if they both expired shortly afterwards. Some species have very short lives as adult moths, with much longer phases as larva and pupa.


Grateful Midgets (Elaphria grata) mating - observed by Rick

The Evergreen Bagworm Moth, has a fascinating life cycle. I'm going to detail that in a future post, but will go ahead and tease you with this photo from Rick.


Evergreen Bagworm Moths (Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis) mating

I've taken to adding a tag "makin-babies" for all of my observations of mating in process. I have a total of 36 of these observations now, all of which are insects except for a pair of snakes. Maybe I should have used the tag "insex" instead. ;) While the "makin-babies" tag is kind of fun, the tag is really just a way for me to personally find those observations quickly and doesn't serve a greater purpose. What is more useful to the iNaturalist community in general is to use the Observations Fields feature of iNaturalist. When you open an observation in the webpage you will see a section on the right side of the page that says "Observation Fields." If you start typing in that box you will see a wealth of options. There are a lot of fields with the same meaning, which is a little unfortunate, but since anyone in the community can create fields that is how it is for now. The field I have been selecting is "Behavior: mating" and then selecting "yes." I would encourage you to use this same feature anytime you happen to catch some moths (or anything else) in the act!


Bluegrass Webworm Moths (Parapediasia teterrellus) mating


Southern Emerald Moths (Synchlora frondaria) mating

Finally, I'd like to feature three observations of mating moths contributed by other iNatters. Thanks to Sunshine Bush, Shaun Michael, and anhe for these observations!


Meal Moths (Pyralis farinalis) and Boxwood Leaftier Moths (Galasa nigrinodis) mating


Luna Moths (Parapediasia teterrellus) mating

Publicado em 05 de setembro de 2019, 04:02 PM por zdufran zdufran | 1 comentários | Deixar um comentário

29 de agosto de 2019

Moths in the News: Moths helping to stem the flu!

Everyone hates being sick and the flu is an annual drag on society. We hate it. And we all know someone - or some years many someones - who get caught by the bug.


The larval form of Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda)

Well, believe it or not, one of the three flu vaccines that is available is produced with the help of a "bug," a Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) to be more precise. This particular vaccine is the most recent development, using an insect virus with recombitant DNA technology to produce the vaccine more rapidly than the previous techniques. Thanks Armyworms!

You can read more about it in this article from The Vaccine Reaction.


The adult form of Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda)

Fall Armyworms are a common moth found in the eastern half of the country, wrapping around into Texas. They are within the same genus Spodoptera as the even more common Yellow-striped Armyworm (Spodoptera ornithogalli). Armyworms are one of many moths that are given their common name from their caterpillar stage. They are known to wipe out crops as though an army descended upon them. The Latin specific epithet frugiperda means "lost fruit" because they eat fruit so quickly.

Apparently this species is thought to be undergoing sympatric evolution (evolving into two species while occupying the same geographical area), so in the future there will likely be a new species described that was previously considered a Fall Armyworm.

As with common names of plants and other forms of life, the name "Armyworm" is not a really good taxonomical descriptor. It is applied to several Spodoptera species, as well as to one moth in a different genus. The "True Armyworm" (also called "Common Armyworm" or "White-Speck") is Mythimna unipuncta. This moth derives its name of armyworm for the same reason. I prefer the name "White-Speck" for this species, though, since that name is unique and also a good visual descriptor for the drab brown moth with a white speck on each wing.


Armyworm a.k.a. White Speck (Mythimna unipuncta)

I'd like to remind everyone that we are approaching flu season and flu shots are already available. Don't forget to get yours before the flu gets you!

Publicado em 29 de agosto de 2019, 06:10 PM por zdufran zdufran | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

23 de agosto de 2019

Project updates and new banner image!

We've had a very successful mothing season, with lots of new species seen in the state and several new members who are submitting observations on a regular basis!

iNaturalist has two different types of projects and I decided to convert this project from a "traditional" to a "collective" project. What this means for you is that you no longer have to add each of your observations to the Moths of Oklahoma project; they will automatically be collected if they are seen in Oklahoma and fall within the moth taxonomy. This also means that we're not missing any observations. It does make the project look a little different, if you're used to viewing it in a web browser.

I've also taken this opportunity to institute a new idea for the banner image of the project. Each month I will change out the banner image with a new moth photo from one of our observations over the last month. Due to the layout, I will look for photos that are wide, or that could be rotated to fit the space nicely. For consistency, I will keep the icon image for the project the same, but the banner image will get a makeover every month.

Our first new banner image is a Deep Yellow Euchlaena (Euchlaena amoenaria) photographed by Anna Bennett (@annainok). This is an excellent photo, capturing fine details of a really beautiful moth. This species is found in eastern Oklahoma and has been observed several times this year in the state. Anna's photo will be the banner image for the next month. In the last week of September we'll select a new image from recent observations.

Publicado em 23 de agosto de 2019, 02:29 PM por zdufran zdufran | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

19 de agosto de 2019

Moths in the News: Ghost Orchid Pollination

There is an orchid that grows in the Everglades of south Florida that has captured the attention of many people. In fact, a wonderful non-fiction book was written about a person obsessed with this orchid, and later a movie was adapted from the book, appropriately titled "Adaptation." The orchid is nicknamed the Ghost Orchid because the plant itself lacks any leaves and the white blooms appear to float in the air. There are actually a number of leafless orchids, but this is the only one native to the United States.


Photo by Mac Stone

Apparently scientists have not been able to determine what creature pollinates these orchids. Locating the orchids can be difficult, and studying them is not easy due to their often high placement in the canopy of the large cypress trees that eke out their existence in Florida's swampy southern reaches. A team of photographers recently overcame these obstacles and captured some great images.


Photo by Mac Stone

My first love (plants) and my most recent obsession (moths) collide in this story. Enjoy!

Read the Audubon story on Ghost Orchid Pollination here.



Publicado em 19 de agosto de 2019, 02:38 PM por zdufran zdufran | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

08 de agosto de 2019

National Moth Week re-cap

Two years ago I heard about the Oklahoma Virtual Spring BioBlitz, a project during the month of April with the goal of identifying as many species of life (be it plants, animals, insects, fungi, you have it) within the state of Oklahoma. It sounded right up my alley, so I started participating and quickly found myself obsessed by the lure of "finding more new living things." I became a super user of the iNaturalist app on my phone. Pretty quickly I had taken photos of every type of wild plant and bird I could find in my hometown, but I noticed I was still seeing lots of new insects every day. I started leaving my porch light on at night and, lo and behold, there were LOTS of moths. And they weren't all brown and they weren't all the same species. The end of the month of April (thus the end of BioBlitz) came, and I kept flipping on the porch light each evening. I was compelled to keep up the inventory of moths visiting my porch. I had become a moth addict.

A couple of weeks later I created the Moths of Oklahoma" project on iNaturalist. By the time "National Moth Week" arrived in late July, I reached out to another local iNaturalist user, @ehjalmarson (who incidentally had bested me in the Spring BioBlitz count), and invited her and her partner to do a "moth night" with me in east Norman. Since then I have been recruiting others who show the slightest interest in insects or nature to join me for these moth nights during the warm weather months of the year. I'm happy to report I am no longer alone in my pursuit of learning more about this diverse group of insects.

This year I planned an ambitious three events in different parts of Oklahoma for National Moth Week, hoping to take advantage of Oklahoma's wonderful biogeographical transition. Our first event was held in northeastern Oklahoma at Oxley Nature Center in Tulsa. The second event was held in central Oklahoma at Thunderbird Chapel east of Norman. Our third and final event was held at Quartz Mountain Nature Park north of Altus. In all we had more than 45 people attend the three events and there was a small core group (@leahn19 @rdparker) that attended all three events.

All three events were unique from the setting to the participants to the moths that arrived at our lit sheets. Eastern Oklahoma has the highest species diversity for moths (and many other forms of life) due to the higher rainfall and resultant diversity of vegetation. Many moths are tightly linked to a specific host plant. Tulsa's Oxley Nature Center is located on the edge of a pond within a large green space that has been set aside for nature education. The evening began with a talk about moths in the nature center, led by naturalist Amy Morris. We observed more than 90 species of moths during our 4 hour watch. Our most interesting non-moth observation of the night was a pair of Eastern Dobsonflies. Both genders are large and dangerous looking in a prehistoric way, but the long mandibles of the male really steal the show. Our most interesting moths of the night were Crocus Geometer (Xanthotype sp.), Hag Moth (Phobetron pithecium), Obtuse Yellow (Azenia obtusa), Red-tailed Specter (Euerythra phasma), Kermes Scale Moth (Euclemensia bassettella), Anna Carpenterworm (Givira anna), Golden Looper (Argyrogramma verruca), Jalisco Petrophila (Petrophila jaliscalis), and Deep Yellow Euchlaena (Euchlaena amoenaria).

Our moth night in Norman is in a wooded area near Lake Thunderbird, thick with native oak trees, as well as plenty of Eastern Red Cedars and other plants typical for mixed grass prairie. At this event we observed right at 80 species of moths during another 4 hour watch. We saw literally hundreds of Grape Leaffolders (Desmia funeralis) and even found the folded leaves of the grapevines around on the property, the plants from which all of these moths had emerged when their larval and pupal stages were complete. Other highlights included Variable Tropic Moth (Hemeroplanis scopulepes), Speckled Lactura (Lactura subfervens), Juniper Geometer (Patalene olyzonaria), False Crowned Pearl (Anania plectilis), Catalpa Sphinx (Ceratomia catalpae), a beautiful green emerald (Dichorda rectaria), and several Sweetheart Underwings (Catocala amatrix).

Our moth night at Quartz Mountain was more remote so several of us who took the trip west ended up spending large parts of Saturday and Sunday outdoors at the state park, looking for moths and anything else we could find. My best non-moth sighting of the weekend was an American Porcupine walking along the road between the resort and the nature park. The vegetation around Quartz Mountain is not only less dense, but also consists of different species. On the hot and dry Saturday afternoon I hiked to the top of the mountain overlooking the resort and located a Rufous-crowned Sparrow and a Canyon Wren, two bird species that I had previously only seen in the Wichita Mountains. This was clearly a different environment from our other two locations for the week. Our final tally for the weekend at Quartz Mountain was 84 species of moths observed. The best part was that we observed about a dozen species whose range can be described as "western" in that most of their range is west of Oklahoma. At our other two moth nights the vast majority of species we observed are distributed from Oklahoma east towards the Atlantic coast, so it was great to see that our western Oklahoma event yielded species that may only be found in those farther west reaches of the state. These included Paler Graphic (Drasteria pallescens), Idaea gemmata, Twelve-lined Ofatulena (Ofatulena duodecemstriata), Calliprora sexstrigella, Friseria cockerelli, New Mexico Carpet (Archirhoe neomexicana), Speranza amboflava, Metalectra miserulata, Toripalpus trabalis, Gold-striped Prominent (Hyparpax aurostriata), and Mesquite Looper (Rindgea cyda). Other highlights were Harlequin Webworm (Diathrausta harlequinalis), Alluring Schinia (Schinia siren), and 4 species of sphinx moths: Virginia Creeper (Darapsa myron), Elm (Ceratomia amyntor), Waved (Ceratomia undulosa), and Achemon (Eumorpha achemon).

All told there were more than 11,000 people around the world who submitted moth observations to iNaturalist during National Moth Week. Due to the great efforts of our three events this year, Oklahoma was put on the map in the global National Moth Week project. Oklahoma finished as the state with the 4th highest species count (394 species) behind Alabama, Texas, and Vermont. We also finished with three observers in the top 15 in the world, with 249, 225, and 188 species seen during the week, respectively. And, oh yeah, our Moths of Oklahoma project now has surpassed the 1000 species mark! I'm proud of our effort and already looking forward to next year. Until then I'll be trying to catch up on sleep.

Zzzzzzzzz...

Publicado em 08 de agosto de 2019, 06:21 PM por zdufran zdufran | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

09 de julho de 2019

Moths in the News: A moth fools its predators!

This is another article from more than 5 years ago, but it's a really interesting one. Apparently there is at least one species of moth that is capable of confusing the bats that hunt them by emitting very fast clicking noises. The bats use echolocation to find their prey and the clicking basically obscures their echolocation. I like bats, but I gotta love the fact that this species of moth has evolved to evade capture. That is a cool adaptation indeed!

To top it all off, this is a really attractive tiger moth from the Erebidae family, Bertholdia trigona. See the profile for this species on Moth Photographer's Group, iNaturalist, and Bugguide. Maybe we need to take a field trip to New Mexico to find one of these little beauties!

I've gotta think there are probably more moths out there with this capability, or other interesting capabilities to avoid predation. They just need more study.

Read the Smithsonian Magazine article here.

Publicado em 09 de julho de 2019, 03:34 PM por zdufran zdufran | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

08 de julho de 2019

Save the date: July 27 at Quartz Mountain!

National Moth Week is set for July 20-28 this year with events scheduled all over the world. Here in Oklahoma I have scheduled three different nights of moth viewing, at three different locations in the state. I already shared the announcement for the events in eastern and central Oklahoma.

The third and final event will be in western Oklahoma on Saturday, July 27 at Quartz Mountain State Park. Since this is a somewhat remote location, attendees will want to consider accommodations. Some of us will be tent or RV camping. There is also the option of reserving a room in the lodge.

We plan to set up our lights at the Nature Center, which you can see on the map here. The event will last from dusk until about midnight. Public restrooms are available nearby. Please bring your own bug spray and a camera if you would like to take pictures.

I've already heard that Leah and Rick are coming! Who else wants to join us!?!

If you have any questions, let me know!

Publicado em 08 de julho de 2019, 04:34 PM por zdufran zdufran | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

02 de julho de 2019

Save the date: July 24 in Norman!

National Moth Week is set for July 20-28 this year with events scheduled all over the world. Here in Oklahoma I have scheduled three different nights of moth viewing, at three different locations in the state. I already shared the announcement for the event in eastern Oklahoma (Tulsa).

The second event will be in central Oklahoma on Wednesday, July 24 at Thunderbird Chapel, just east of Norman. We will have lights set up by dusk and will stick around until about midnight. A restroom is available on site. Please bring your own bug spray and a camera if you would like to take pictures.

If you have any questions, let me know!

Stay tuned for the announcement of the third event.

Publicado em 02 de julho de 2019, 06:45 PM por zdufran zdufran | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário