Readers’ wildlife photos: special “spot the moths” version

January 29, 2022 • 9:00 am

Have an hour to spare to find some cryptic insects? Today we have a “spot the moths” series from Mark Sturtevant. It has two hidden species, one per photo. I’ve put Mark’s reveals below the fold.  Click on the two photos below to enlarge them, and the narrative from Mark is indented.

I rate both pictures as “extraordinarily difficult,” so take your time finding them. I doubt that you’ll find both! This also shows how amazingly cryptic moths can be, and of course they tend to land in places that give them camouflage.

Can your readers find the moths in the two pictures? They are both pretty much in plain view and fairly large. Da Rool, however, must be to please not reveal the locations so that other readers can have a go. Have at it, people!

JAC: BE SURE TO ENLARGE THE PHOTOS TO THEIR MAXIMUM SIZE (click twice in succession), or you’ll fail miserably.

Photo (and speciesI 2:

Click “continue reading” below for the Big Reveals, but first try to see the moths!

Here are the two moths. The first is a Luna Moth (Actias luna), and I just about got a charley horse pulling up to a stop when I first saw it! There were some obscuring branches in the close up picture, but those were removed with some digital chicanery. 

The second is a large underwing moth (Catocala sp.). These  have boldly colored hindwings that they keep well concealed when at rest. The bug cage holds a big nursery web spider that I was taking home for pictures. The pole is one tool that I use for keeping things steady while taking close up pictures.

16 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos: special “spot the moths” version

  1. No need to worry about me spoiling anyone’s “Find The _____” fun!
    Mr Sturtevant would have to outline the critter in red, and then draw eyes and antennae on it. (And preferably have it hum or whistle.)

  2. This is a great post. I just looked up the underwing moth, because I wanted to see the colorful wings. How beautiful! Do the colorful wings come out to attract other moths? With those wings hidden and even knowing where the moth was, it was difficult to find; that’s very impressive camouflage. I also looked up the nursery web spiders. They catch fish?! Are there any photos of the one that was in the little bug cage? I found a beautiful photo online of one toting around her egg sac (I also learned why they’ve got their name.) I love this idea for wildlife photos and hope you post more. These were fun and so interesting.

    1. I don’t know what the official term is, but underwing moths are an example of a kind of deceptive camouflage. They blend in to their environment when at rest, but when spooked into flight they flash these brightly colored hind wings. A bird would see the bright colors and presumably would be looking for something colorful like that when it lands. But when landed, they cover up again so the bird won’t see it since its looking for the wrong thing. To be even more effective, when they land they often duck behind a tree trunk. Or if they don’t do that, they will often land and then quickly scooch over several steps.

      Here is a nursery web spider (aka fishing spider. The common names are a mess right now). They are scary big.

      1. Can I bother you with another question about the spiders? How do you catch them? (Not that I’m going to; I’m just curious.) Do you use a bait? Or was it just luck finding one?

        1. No bother. Chatting about arthropods is what I do. These run in short bursts and they very much want to avoid danger. So one can just put a wide container in front of one then tickle it from the rear. They zip inside and that is that. They are not aggressive but I don’t handle them owing to a certain related large wolf spider many years ago. They are found on tree trunks or on top of tall weeds often near water. Docks next to lakes also, so one informal name people use is “dock spider”. There they get a lot of attention since they are big.

    2. The colourful underwings are a second line of defence. If the moth’s camouflage is rumbled and it is detected it opens the wings suddenly which may startle the predator, giving the moth an extra split second to escape. Then if the predator gives chase it is following a brightly coloured insect which when the moth lands again appears to vanish completely as the underwings are concealed again. Some grasshoppers use a similar tactic.

      As the moths are nocturnal I suspect that the colour of the underwings plays no role in attracting mates.

      1. Thank you! I’ve noticed what you’re talking about on grasshoppers and never thought to wonder what it was for. I’ve learned a lot from this post and the comments.

        Some birds use a sudden flash of hidden color or white to startle prey or confuse predators. I wonder if there are any insects who use it that way?

  3. I found both, after enlarging even further than two clicks and spending half an hour looking. If I had not done science projects on butterflies and collected butterflies and moths in high school, I never would have had a chance. Long ago, I donated my collection to the California Academy of Science since I was lucky enough to have collected specimens of a butterfly then known from less than twenty individuals.

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