Friday, July 26, 2013

National Moth Week!

I just found out this afternoon, while listening to Science Friday on my way to the grocery store, that it's National Moth Week.

So, even though I'm leading an Oregon tour right now, enjoying such great birds as Northern Pygmy-Owl and Hermit Warbler, I'll post a few pictures of some moths from an overnight trip I did to the Pinal Mountains with my friend Margarethe Brummermann (her blog here) earlier this month.

Here's Margarethe installing the bug sheet, which was later illuminated with a mercury vapor and two ultra violet bulbs.

Towards the end of the evening, we had at least 16 Manduca florestan sphinx moths (among four other sphingid species), and many other smaller moths and insects.

If you look very closely, you will appreciate the beauty in every species. This tiny noctuid is Ponometia venustula, easy to identify with that silver dash in the wing.

This erebid, Bulia deducta, is one I can almost never figure out – adults are amazingly variable. It's quite common, even in my Tucson yard, as its caterpillar food plant is mesquite.

This pretty little thing is Cacozelia basiochrealis, in the family Pyralidae. I don't know anything about it, other than that I'd never seen it before.

You have to look very closely to see the beauty in the fine pattern and interesting shape of this Givira lotta, the Pine Carpenterworm Moth. It's in the family Cossidae, the same as the huge hulks I recently posted from Borneo. (Speaking of which, yes I will have more to post on that eventually).

I am always mesmerized by the intricate patterns and colors of Melipotis indomita, the Indomitable Melipotis. It's extremely common and widespread – I even had it in the Galapagos once.

The prettiest for last are three species of tiger moths, subfamily Arctiinae.

Lophocampa argentata, the Silver-spotted Tiger Moth

Hypercompe permaculata, the Many-spotted Tiger Moth

Arachnis picta, the Painted Tiger Moth

Many thanks to Maury Heiman and Bob Patterson at for the many species IDs.


  1. Do you know where she got that cool bulb setup, Rich? Thanks.

  2. She used the skeleton of an old 'easy up' art show tent. Secure hanging for the mercury vapor bulb and lots of options to hand additional UV tubes and no searching for trees to string the sheet from anymore. Bulky (folds up nicely though) but convenient

  3. Is there a low-tech version of this moth sheet set-up that could be set up in a back yard?

  4. I'd say that Margarethe's version is pretty low-tech. Being in the woods does mean you have to bring some sort of power source to run the lights, but at home you can plug them in. For the greatest variety, you really should have a UV lamp as well as a mercury vapor (or sodium vapor) – the different wavelengths attract different bugs. Then just hang them close to a sheet (careful – the vapor bulb gets hot). Where we were Margarethe uses a car battery to power one UV and for the other two a small gasoline-powered two-stroke generator motor (and a very long extension cord so the noise isn't right by the sheet).