Monday, March 2, 2015

Tucson Moths in February

We've had a very mild, if unusually moist, winter in Tucson, and while the mothing at the porch light has been not been anything like during the monsoon, I still am checking it every evening.

This moth is Idaea bonifata, given the English name Fortunate Idaea, and is one of the smallest geometrids in North America. This individual wasn't such a fortunate find, however. It flew out of my kitchen cupboard, and the larvae are known to feed on decaying leaves and...stored grains. So I better get around to cleaning out my kitchen cupboard.

At the porch light was this Rindgea cyda, the Mesquite Looper Moth. Looper is another name for inchworm, also geometrids. Not a surprise here, as we have many mesquites in the yard.

While house-sitting at my friends' house in NE Tucson, I found this similar moth, and it actually appears to be exactly the same species – just a very variable one.

Yet another geometrid at the light was this Iridopsis dataria. It's a rather large genus with many confusingly similar species, but the thin, straight black line on the hindwing (as opposed to wavy) as well as the coppery-brown strips just below that black line and on the forewing look like good field marks to hone in on.

It seems that February is the month for geometrids. This is Synchlora frondaria, Southern Emerald Moth. The emerald moths are the “classic” inch worms, subfamily Geometrinae.

Finally, this last moth is still in its pupal stage. I dug it out of the ground by my back patio while removing an old chaste tree (monk pepper tree), which was always struggling with a lack of water and had put on a sum of about 2 feet of growth in 17 years. At 52 mm, naked (not in a cocoon), and with that prominent proboscis, it's clearly a sphinx moth, and is almost also certainly one of the individuals that defoliated and eventually killed my tomato plant last year while I was away on tour. Both Manduca sexta (the Carolina Sphinx, also called Tobacco Hornworm) and Manduca quinquemaculatus (the Five Spotted Hawk Moth, also called Tomato Hornworm) will feed on tomatoes. I put this one in a jar with some dirt and will see what emerges.

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