Zigzag Herpetogramma

Zigzag Herpetogramma

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Newport Forest Night Life

A few days ago I joined Kee Dewdney for an evening of black lighting at Newport Forest. This site is located in Elgin County along the south side of the Thames River. It was a former farming operation, but had some fairly extensive and intact forest and stream habitat still present. Kee and his wife Pat acquired this property a couple of decades or so ago, but in recent years have turned over the long-term future of it to the Thames Talbot Land Trust. All of the former farmed land has been either left to regenerate on its own, or had thousands of trees planted on it. It is quite an amazing complex of varied habitats.

Kee and Pat have been building an on-site list of all the flora and fauna they can discover. So it was with that in mind that I took my black light out to the site and met up with Kee, hoping that we could add to the biological inventory. We each had our own light set up a short distance apart, with the hopes that two lights were better than one.

We were not disappointed.

Here are a few of the creatures I was able to photograph at one light or the other. Some of the names are obvious, but for the others, someone had some really creative thoughts!

As is often the case, many moths do not have bright colours. What good are they in a dark, night-time environment?  But the patterns are quite intricate, and some moths are incredibly colourful as you will see farther down the page. Admittedly being towards the later part of the season, some moths look quite worn and not as vibrant looking as they would have a few weeks ago. And that only adds to the challenge of identifying them.

Clover Looper
Bristly Cutworm
Black-banded Owlet
Green Cloverworm
Brown-collared Dart
Large Mossy Glyph
Yellow-haired Dagger
Aster-head Eucosma
Arcigera Flower Moth
Hickory Stem Borer

Oblique-banded Leafroller
Red-banded Leafroller
Gold-striped Leaftier

Pale Lichen Moth
There are always numerous non-moth creatures that come to visit. Many of are nondescript black beetle types, some of which are very tiny and difficult to identify using a single photo. But other creatures are nice for variety and more easily identified.
Alder Spittlebug
Citrus Flatid Planthopper
 This next one is a colourful member of the Ichneumon Wasps. I don't know of a common name for it, but its scientific name is Acrotaphus wiltii. Since there doesn't seem to be a common name for it, we have unofficially decided to call it the Two-banded Ichneumon Wasp.
 This next one is a Mayfly of the Stenacron genus.

A Meadow Katydid type
A Robber Fly
 The one below is a type of Crane Fly. And in case you think that insects have a pretty easy life, check out the one below it.
 This isn't an Orange-headed Cranefly or something like that. The orange colour comes from a whole host of tiny mites that are living on this cranefly.

A type of Tree Cricket
Grape Leaffolder
Horned Spanworm
The aptly named Pale Beauty
Porcelain Gray with a much smaller Epiblema sp beside
Rigid Sunflower Borer
Sparganothis Fruitworm
 This next one looks fairly drab, and with its wings closed you have to look more closely at the pattern of various shades of grey to figure it out.
 When it opens its forewings and shows the usually hidden hindwings, it really shows its true colours. It is a member of the Underwing group, known as the Catocola group. This one is called 'The Sweetheart'.
 One of the highlights of this particular outing was to find and photograph this next one, the Glorious Habrosyne. It is considered an uncommon species throughout its northeastern range, and especially in Ontario.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Wonderful World of Moths!

Over the past few weeks I have spent far less time birding, and a lot more time with my black light set up somewhere, trying to see what moths, beetles, leafhoppers, bugs, etc might show up. It has been a lot of fun. Sometimes I just set up in my back yard, but I have also spent a few hours at places like Rondeau (of course!) as well as Bickford Oak Woods Conservation Reserve and Moore Wildlife Area, both in west central Lambton, and also Newport Forest, along the Thames River in Elgin. Over the course of these after dark events, I have taken well over 1000 photos, including multiples just so I have more options to work on back home on the computer. Since I haven't been able to attach identifications to all of the species yet, I have no accurate species count, but it is probably well in excess of 200.  
Some of the prairie habitat at Bickford Oak Woods
The habitats of the aforementioned sites have varied, but so far they always have some forested component. Although there have been some similarities in the invertebrates that arrive, there have been some differences as well. And some nice surprises!

To see what my black light set up looks like, check out this earlier blog post at this link. It is quite portable, as long as I can drive to a suitable spot with no competing lights, and it only takes a few minutes to set up or take down. The light itself only draws 15 watts, so plugging it in to the vehicle's power supply isn't going to wear down the battery very quickly. In fact a friend who has a similar set up but attaches the light to a separate vehicle 12 volt battery uses the equipment for several hours a few times a year, and has not charged the battery in over two years.

While birds and birding are a lot of fun as many readers know, it is relatively simple by comparison, at least in some ways. First of all, even with all of the devout birders scouring every corner of the province over the decades, there are fewer than 500 species of birds that have ever been recorded in the whole of Ontario. They are predominantly active during the daylight hours and often quite audible. With the optical equipment available these days, birds are relatively easy to see or hear and be able to identify, especially with the host of tools such as field guides. If one is reasonably technically advanced, there are various apps for your phone as well as linkages to useful web sites that can assist a birder in the field.
Looking for birds, not moths

To be able to discover moths, on the other hand, 'moth-ers' have relatively few tools. Fortunately there is an excellent Peterson Field Guide which came out in 2012, written by two Ontario naturalists, David Beadle and Seabrooke Leckie. There are over 11,000 species of moth in North America, with several thousand in the area of northeastern NA that the guide covers. The field guide includes ~1500 of the most common or most colourful species. However most moths are active after dark rather than in broad daylight, making them difficult to see. Added to the complication is that even the largest moths have a wingspan of up to 15 cm (6"), while there is a huge number of moths that are 10-15 mm (~0.5"), with some being barely 5 mm (less than 1/4"). And then there are the really tiny critters, such as leafhoppers and types of flies that area only ~2-3 mm. When in flight, they are larger, but you can't see them well enough in flight to be able to identify them. So the huge number of a mostly nocturnal group of critters, most of which are incredibly small, none of which make any audible sound, all add up to it being a major challenge. Binoculars aren’t much help at all! What does help is a light source, such as a black light reflecting off a white sheet. And of course a good quality camera and flash with excellent macro capabilities. On line resources include BugGuide and the Moth Photographers Group.

Here is a variety of moths I've shot, either in my back yard, Rondeau earlier in the summer or more recently at Bickford Oak Woods. If you click on any of the photos, they should come up larger and be easier to see the colour and detail.
Bird-dropping Moth
Arcigera Flower Moth
Black-banded Owlet
 This next one is the Bristly Cutworm Moth. While many moths are rather drab, appropriate for their after dark environment I suppose, some moths are quite intricately patterned and show a variation in colour. This one shows a hind of green and purple in the proper light.

Bronzy Macrochilo
Celery Leaftier
Harnessed Tiger Moth
Newman's Brocade
 And yes, there are mosquitoes, although they seem to be at their worst just before dusk, but by half an hour after dark, they are hardly noticeable at all.
There are always a few things besides moths, and actually caddisflies are sometimes the most abundant. However they are very difficult to identify by photograph alone, so I don't bother with them. This next one is the Alfalfa Plant Bug.

 This next one is a type of Mayfly. I had it identified on BugGuide by a northeastern US fly fisherman who wrote a book on mayflies, and he indicated it is known as a Small Minnow Mayfly, Callibaetis floridanus.  It does not show up anywhere in Canada on iNaturalist, and even in the author's web site it does not show this species as occurring in Canada, so presumably it may be a new Canadian record. I photographed this at Bickford Oak Woods Conservation Reserve on August 25, 2019.

A Water Boatman of some type
Meadow Spittlebug
Back to a few moths.....
Pale Lichen Moth
Ragweed Borer Moth
Stalk Borer
Subgothic Dart

Verbena Bud Moth
Ipson Dart
 This next one has a pattern like a frowning face. It is an Elegant Microcrambid Moth
 I was really impressed with the intricate pattern and subtle colouration of this next one. It is a Moonseed Moth, named for its dependence on Moonseed a vine-type plant native to southern Ontario.

Oblique-banded Leafroller
 Some more brightly patterned moths...
Painted Lichen Moth
Raspberry Pyrausta
The Wedgling
 This next one does not have a common name as far as I have been able to come across. It is known only by its scientific name: Xenotemna pallorana.

Most of the above moths are in the 10-15mm size range when at rest. Here are a few tiny ones.
Bactra sp
Double-striped Scoparia
Aster Head Eucosma
Just a small sample of some of the intriguing moths I have encountered. I will highlight some of the ones from Moore Wildlife Area and Newport Forest in a future post, as well as some more from a recent black lighting adventure at Rondeau and area and maybe a few more sites, so come on back!