Readers’ wildlife photos

July 13, 2021 • 8:00 am

PLEASE send in your photos. I could guilt trip you by pointing out that all the content here is free, and then humbly ask for some return in the form of photos—but I won’t.

Today’s lovely photos of moths come from reader Jim McCormac. His captions and IDs are indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them. Jim’s “massive photo website” is here and his blog, Ohio Birds and Biodiversity, is here.

These images come from the evenings of June 25 & 26, 2021. A group of us convened in a wonderfully diverse natural area in Highland County, Ohio. Because of the botanical diversity, the moth diversity is exceptional (almost all moth caterpillars eat plants, so plants drive moths). We use mercury vapor lights and black lights to lure moths to walls or more often white sheets where they can be identified and tallied. All lights are extinguished before daybreak, and the moths flushed back into the darkness. Moths are the (mostly) nocturnal counterpart of butterflies, but the former group is FAR more speciose. In Ohio, about 140 butterfly species have been recorded. Over 2,000 moth species have been documented, and probably hundreds (maybe even thousands) remain to be recorded, most of these the so-called micromoths.

A stunning Pink-striped Oakworm (Anisota virginiensis). It is fresh as can be, probably having emerged from its cocoon within the last 24 hours. Silkmoths in the family Saturniidae do not have functional mouthparts and don’t feed as adults. A week old specimen would be ancient.

A Luna Moth (Actias luna) peeks over my finger. This jumbo silkmoth may be the best known North American moth. This individual is a male, as evidenced by the huge fern-like antennae. They are packed with pheromone receptors, and he can detect female pheromones from a half-mile or more.

The King of Midwest silkmoths, a Cecropia (Hyalophora cecropia). Its wingspan can reach seven inches. This lepidopteran work of art is essentially a flying gonad. The sole mission of non-feeding adults is to find a mate, reproduce, and in the case of the female, dump eggs. They’ll die within a week or so.

One last silkmoth and it’s a treasure: Bisected Honey Locust Moth (Ssysphinx bisecta). It is an extreme specialist, as its caterpillars feed only on the foliage of Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) and occasionally Kentucky Coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus).

The Beautiful Wood-Nymph (Eudryas grata), although it perhaps doesn’t look so beautiful from this angle. This moth is a consummate bird dropping mimic and often hides all day in plain sight atop a leaf. It’s easy to walk by one and pay no attention to the fresh “bird scat” on the foliage.

A Brown Scoopwing (Calledapteryx dryopterata) looks like something bit chunks from its wings. Its caterpillars are specialists on a few species of (native) viburnum. Moths whose larvae can consume a wide array of plant species are termed polyphagous. But most moths tilt towards specialization, and extreme specialists like this scoopwing are frequent.

A cute moth if there ever was one, the Dot-lined White (Artace cribaria). It is a generalist (polyphagous) on a variety of woody plants, including oaks, members of the rose family and others.

17 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Wow! Incredible! I love the Luna Moth and the Dot-lined White. I’ve never seen anything remotely like them.

  2. Jim McCormac is, to my mind, the greatest all-round field naturalist I will ever know. Began his career as a field botanist for the Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves. Discovered numerous rare plants throughout Ohio. Then moved to Ohio’s Division of Wildlife, to beef up their work to conserve non-game species. And most people know him as one of the leading birders in the state. Moths, butterflies, caterpillars, Odonates, he studies them all. And nobody nicer about sharing his knowledge. Couldn’t begin to say how much I have learned from Jim over the years.

  3. I could guilt trip you by pointing out that all the content here is free, and then humbly ask for some return in the form of photos—but I won’t.

    Jerry Coyne, master of apophasis. 🙂

  4. The last photo— the cute moth— looks just like some Japanese anime character, though I don’t know the name of that either.

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