Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

Monday, 31 July 2017

Creatures of the night

Last week, July 22-30, 2017 was National Moth Week. Not a lot of people spend time looking for or at moths. Most moths are active only after dark, and if they show up in headlights or porch lights, they look like a dark creature fluttering around, and one doesn't see the often quite detailed variation in colour or pattern. It takes a bit more effort than it does to search for their colourful and much more obvious cousins, the butterflies. So moth enthusiasts, generally known as 'moth-ers' have been promoting a national week to celebrate moths.

In Canada and the USA, there are apparently a little over 750 species of butterfly and 11,000 species of moth known, with new ones still being discovered. There are lots of good butterfly reference materials available; however due to the immense number of moths, and the fact that a lot are extremely small and, to most people's way of thinking, nondescript except for the large silk moths (e.g. Cecropia, Polyphemus, Luna), there are few good sources of reference material for moths. However an excellent, fairly recent moth reference is the Peterson Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America by David Beadle and Seabrooke Leckie, published in 2012. An excellent on-line source of information is the Butterflies and Moths of North America, as noted here as well as Bugguide, in this link. 

Some moths are quite visible in broad daylight, such as these first two species. This Hummingbird Clearwing is a type of Sphinx moth, sometimes seen hovering at flowers such as this Wild Bergamot.

Another one is this Squash Vine Borer moth, a far less desirable species if one is trying to grow squash in the garden. Nonetheless it is still colourful and attractive in its own right.
Squash Vine Borer
To join in the National Moth Week event, I recently set up my black light on the back patio, where there was very little competing light. I had it shining on an old white sheet that we sometimes use as a drop cloth when painting. By the time it was almost fully dark, the insects were arriving, and in fairly short order, there were several hundred of them scattered across the sheet and anywhere else there was light reflecting from the black light.

Bugs and beetles certainly outnumbered the moths by a large margin.
 Most were very small. You can see by the fine weave of the sheet that the beetle in this next image is very tiny, probably no more than about 3-4 mm in total length.

Most were difficult to identify, but some actually fit the reference material that I had access to. This next one is a type of ground beetle, probably Chlaenius aestivus.
 This is another ground beetle, known as Seedcorn Beetle (Stenolophus lineola).
Others that I photographed are as yet, unnamed. If I find out what they are, I will update this post.

But the purpose of my black-lighting was to attract moths. Again, some of them I was able to match a name to using various reference materials I had.

Epiblema sp.

Kimball's Palpita (Palpita kimballi)

Pearly Wood-Nymph (Eudryas unio)

Lesser Maple Spanworm (Speranza pustularia)
But so far, there are several others that I just haven't tracked down yet. Some were attracted to the black light itself, rather than the white sheet. These first two have now been identified via Bugguide.
Lucerne Moth (Nomophila nearctica)

Oblique-banded Leafroller (Choristoneura rosaceana)

There may be 'moth-ers' out there who can shed some light on these moths, especially the unnamed ones, so by all means, join in the discussion.


  1. An interesting exercise! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank-you...I plan to do more in the near future.