Moths from the porch light, July 2013

2014 May 17

Here are a bunch more moths from around our front porch light on July 4, 2013. Rather than dole them out in individual postings over several weeks, let’s just run through them all at once. I think a lot of these are duplicates of moths that I previously posted from past years of turning on the porch light[1]. Like this one, which is another one-eyed sphinx, possibly a direct descendant of the ones we raised from eggs a while back..

And this one, while it is similar to the Vagabond Crambus we found two years ago, is clearly only a relative and not the same species – this one’s mouthparts aren’t so bushy, and the patterning on the wings is different. I think it might be a Forked Grass-Veneer, Crambus bidens.

An interesting thing about the Forked Grass-Veneer is that, while it is known to be associated with bogs, nobody seems to know what it is that the larvae eat. Mysteries abound!

This next one, a white moth with a pale brown line slanting across the wings, looks like a new species for this site. I think it is a White Slant-Line, Tetracis cachexiata. The brown line is a bit faint in this specimen, but it looks like it is normally more distinct. This is a geometrid moth with an inchworm-type caterpillar, and the caterpillars appear to eat leaves from just about every kind of tree that we have around here.

Here are a couple more probable geometrid moths. At least, they rest with their wings in the pose that I’ve come to associate with geometrids. This first one was identified for me on BugGuide as being in the genus Hypagyrtis

And I’m not sure which kind this next one is, although the swept-wing pose is the other common pose for geometrid moths.

This next gray moth appears to be an owlet of some type. It may be another specimen of The Brother, Raphia frater, or one of its close relatives. If that’s what it is, this is a prettier specimen than the one we found last time.

And then, we have a few micromoths, that rest with their wings tightly furled. The first one is white in front, and dark behind:

On BugGuide, Jan Metlevski identified it as Ponometia candefacta, the “Olive-shaded bird-dropping moth”. Bird droppings tend to have a black part and a white part[2], so insects that are mimicking bird dropping will have that same color scheme. The larvae of this species eat ragweed, which allergy sufferers will approve of.

This next one is almost the opposite, dark in front and white behind, so it is probably mimicking a bird dropping facing the other direction:

As suggested by A. Hendrickson on BugGuide, I agree that this one looks an awful lot like Epiblema scudderiana, the Goldenrod Gall Moth. One of many species of insects that make galls in goldenrod stems. I don’t know what it is about goldenrod that makes it attract so many types of gall-formers, but there are a lot of them.

This last micromoth is one of the many kinds that perch on surfaces with their wingtips tight against the surface and their heads raised, which makes them look kind of like buds if they sit on a branch:

It’s probably one of the Gracillaridae, many of which have caterpillars that are leaf-miners.

And then, we have a couple of specimens of one of those gray, only vaguely-patterned moths that can be so hard to identify.

Jan Metlevski also had a probable ID for this one: he thinks it is probably Heterocampa guttivitta, the “Saddled Prominent”. It looks like one of those moth groups where the caterpillars are often more showy than the adults.

So, there we are. Yet another typical assemblage of porch-light[3] moths that one is likely to get in early July around Houghton.

[1] After seven years, I’m finally reaching the point in this project where species I photograph are about as likely to be something posted previously, as to be a new species. I probably have another five years to go before I’ll have to put forth a serious effort to specifically seek out new species instead of just continuing with “targets of opportunity”. Especially since my photography always leaves room for improvement, so even if I photograph the same insect multiple times, the later sessions are likely to have better pictures.

[2] The reason bird droppings are multicolored like that is because they are actually a combination of two different waste products; one coming from their intestines, and the other from their kidneys (birds don’t have separate bladders for urine, the way mammals do). So we have the blob of dark material that is the residue from their food, followed by the white creamy portion that is the uric acid salts produced by their kidneys, and the final watery portion is their urine. People who keep birds are advised to examine their bird’s droppings to check for particular types of illness. Anyway, that blob of urates is what makes bird droppings such a wonderful source of nitrates if you use them for fertilizer.

[3] The thing about photographing insects that are drawn to our porch-light is that it tends to make moths heavily over-represented on these pages. It is just sooooo easy to photograph a dozen different moth species all at once this way, as opposed to trying to find, say, ant species one at a time. I bet that if it weren’t for being drawn to lights, I probably wouldn’t have pictures of more than maybe a dozen moths, as opposed to the over 100 moths that I actually have pictures of.

3 Responses
  1. May 17, 2014

    Tim, those are beautiful. Just when I thought I’d found my favorite, I scrolled down to find another just as lovely. I’m going to borrow one of these and throw you a link.

    Aside: I still visit regularly even though my commenting has dropped off. For various reasons, leaving comments has become temporarily more difficult. It makes me smile when my sidebar links reveal a new post of yours. Bless you sir, for the joy you bring me.

  2. May 20, 2014

    Thanks, KT.

    As for the commenting, I’ve noticed that commenting on blogs has dropped off pretty much everywhere, not just here, even though the statistics counters show that there are still plenty of visitors. I’m told that this is probably because people who are inclined to comment on things online, are now mostly doing it on facebook or twitter rather than on individual blogs, but I don’t really know.

    I’ll keep the comments going on this site, since I think it’s important for readers who know things that I don’t to add information and to correct my mistakes. But, the days of the blog-as-community, with commenters posting mainly to be sociable and to encourage the blogger, seem to be passing away.

  3. May 20, 2014

    My hits fell by 75% about a year ago, coinciding, I think, with a change in Google’s search algorithms. As for comments and blogs, I think the day of the solo blogger has come and gone. Everything seems to be getting swept up into group sites. That’s where the comments are going, too, from what I see. Oh well. I still like the medium and I like the way it makes me keep trying to think deeper thoughts than I would if were only a consumer of information.

Comments are closed.