Flora and fauna of the Athens County area, and occasionally habitats outside Ohio. Subject matter will consist of both interpretive material and taxonomic issues in plant and animal identification.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Moth Hunting with Lisa

Back in July, Lisa Sells and I went out looking for moths. We decided to try again in late August. Last time I spent most of it with the camera, this time I had my jars. I didn't pay much attention to this Banded Tiger Moth at first, as there are many that look like this. Upon closer examination, I think this is Apantesis carlotta. This is a recently described species that used to be lumped in with the rest. What's different is the basal edge of the wing is lined in black, not white. What I meant by "the rest", is the Tiger Moth complex of vittata/nais/phalerata, which are almost impossible to tell apart visually.

Papaipema circumlucens, Hop Stalk Borer, I think. Lisa and I having been going back and forth on figuring this one out. These are stem boring moths. Caterpillars in this genus eat out the center stem on a variety of herbaceous plants. This one feeds on Hops and Dogbane. The overall color pattern, and the two small white dots near the wing base leads me to this species. Papaipema moths are very similar in looks. This is one I had never collected before, and there are not a lot of photographs out there. The jury is still out, and I will have an expert verify the ID at a later date.

Ethmia zelleriella, Zeller's Ethmia. Last year down at Shawnee I picked up two species of Ethmia. trifurcella, with its charcoal black wings, and longimaculella, with its polka-dotted and streaked wings. Zeller's Ethmia differs from those by having a yellow body and yellow legs. This was another first for me.

Wavy-lined Emerald, Synchlora areata. This is one of the smallest of the Green Emeralds. In my last post on moths, I mentioned to always look for three things to distinguish between species. In areata, look for a white body stripe, wavy lines in the wings, and no red border on the wing edges.

This Inchworm has two sets of rusty colored patches near the wing base, a dark brown patch in the center of the wing, with two lobes reaching towards the white area, and two brown spots near the outer edge of the wing. With everything in twos, we should call this the Red Twin-spot, Xanthorhoe ferrugata.

Lascoria ambigualis. Sometimes called the Ambiguous Moth, that name seems so ambiguous, if you know what I mean. I put this in the Deltoid Noctuids because of the triangle shape. It doesn't matter if it truly is a deltoid Owlet or not. It works for me, and helps narrow it down so I can go right to the references for an exact name. While you shouldn't ignore established common names, there is nothing wrong with coming up with something original to aid in recognition. I like to call it the 3-spotted Lascoria, due to the black marks. Look at the third spot away from the wing margin. There is an indentation in the wing, like a bite was taken out. This helps in ID.

Most of my beginning dendrology students have never had an identification class before. Like the book 'Don't Be Such A Scientist', I tell them to make up their own method of learning. You don't have to follow technical jargon, use your own vocabulary. Develop a system. Everything in biology works on a system. Don't try to memorize, you'll never retain it.

Pandemis lamprosana.

Choristoneura obsoletana or zapulata. I'm also not afraid to put things out there that may be debated by those with more knowledge. Trouble is, most micro moth experts aren't cruising blogs. They are busy dissecting these to be sure. These are Leafroller Moths. The family is split into two groups. In these, the skinny bodies are covered by extra wide wings that remind me of Batman or Superman capes.

Besides moths, a few other notable critters came in. Banasa dimidiata, is a predominately yellow and brown Stinkbug.

Alder Spittlebug, Clastotera obtusa. Sorry, my lens just couldn't get any closer to this tiny guy. This group of spittlebugs exhibit what is known as 'head-tail reversal'. There are two black spots at the back end that look like eyes. Some of these guys leave their rear legs extended out the back end to look like antennae. Predators tend to attack the head region, giving these bugs a chance to escape forward. The stripes resemble an abdomen, but that is actually the head. Blow up the picture, and you can see two wire like antennae sticking out the top.

Behind the sheet we found a spider web with nothing in it. With a little looking, there it was, folded up under a twig.

After a while, it came out to the middle to sit. At first I thought maybe the Barnyard Orb Weaver, Araneus cavaticus. but I'm having second thoughts. Good thing, regardless of the abdomen color, the pale stripe and stitch marks make this the SAME species as below. Thanks again to Dr. Bradley.

Here is a different one I shot during the day. Those black stitch marks, and pale abdomen stripe match up better to the Arabesque Orb Weaver, Neoscona arabesca. Orb Weavers are so variable, I'm often guessing. I have a workshop with Richard Bradley soon, so I'll get the names straight with him, and make any needed changes. (update: changes made).

The night before I was with Lisa, I was scheduled to do a mothing program at Old Man's Cave. I got within one mile of the park, the clouds opened up, and pour it did. So much for moths. I tried to get a few pictures before dark, but couldn't get enough for a separate post, so I'm just filling up space. A Honeybee clings desperately to a Common Sneezeweed Helenium autumnale, in hopes the rain has passed.

Black Chokeberry. Sometimes put in the genus Pyrus or Photinia, I know it as Aronia melanocarpa. The fruit is edible, though sour to some palates. It's used for jelly, jam, pies, and drinks.

Chokeberry differs from other members of the family by the center of the leaf. Identification is based on the black specs located along the white vein.

Even when dark, the bright red fruit of Partridgeberry, Mitchella repens, is quite visible. Some of the most interesting plants can be found along the edge of the upper falls. That area is now closed off, and you are subjected to walking a path full of "landscape plants". What a pitiful sight for such a wonderful park. I understand it is due to fatalities, and it's a safety concern, but planted patches of vegetation? It looks so contrived.

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