Saturday, July 28, 2012

Moth Week 6: Blacklighting for Moths - Updated

UV light source + a light background = Blacklight Trap
As Moth Week flutters towards a close, the Home Bug Gardeners decided to do something we haven't done for years: blacklight for bugs. Insects that fly by night are often attracted to lights and ultraviolet light is a strong attractant, especially for moths.
Fatal attraction: Moth danced into a stupor at the Blacklight Ball 
Feltia jaculifera (Guenée, 1852), the Dingy Cutworm
All you need is a an ultraviolet light source; some power to run it; a light-coloured background (a sheet or a wall will do); and the ability to stay awake after sundown. We used the corner of the porch on our cabin in a pasture outside town (Gopher Hill) and a portable power source to keep our light glowing for about three hours.
Midge and Moth resting Feltia herilis (Grote, 1873) aka Master's Dart, Herald Dart
We didn't actually last the three hours - gardening is hard work, and sleep comes easy in the country - but we were able to see a diversity of interesting insects, including numerous mysterious moths. The one above is probably the adult of a cutworm, but we were without moth expertise last night and pretty  much in the dark as to who was whom. So, we just oohed and aahed and clicked and wondered what they might be.
Pretty brown moth Caenurgina cf erechtea (Cramer, 1780) - probably the Forage Looper (possibly the very similar Clover Looper)
It is probably more fun if you go blacklighting with someone who knows their moths, but it being Moth Week, the experts are all busily engaged in holding their own events. We had weeding and watering to do at our country garden. There's no electricity there, but we had a portable light and power source. That and some wine was all that was needed for an entertaining Friday night fully in spirit with Moth Week.
Interesting Beige Moth Mythimna oxygala (Grote, 1881) the Lesser Wainscot
We expect to be able to identify many or even most of the moths we took pictures of last night through the wonders of BugGuide, Powell & Opler's Moths of Western North America, and our friends in the Alberta Lepidopterists Guild
Pale Beauty Campaea perlata Guenée, 1858
We did see a few we knew from out backyard, like the Pale Beauty, but most were mysterious. Probably several are agricultural pests, but for the evening, we were quite happy to admire the better side of their natures. A few of the moths were still resting on our porch the next morning. So, in a a sense, the fun continued into the dawn hours.
Probably a Prominent resting between lacewing eggs, but actually a Tufted Thyatirin Pseudothyatira cymatophoroides (Guenée, 1852)
Serious mothers collect specimens and pin them up, but we're more on the moth-appreciation side. Even scientists need hobbies and taking pictures of moths seems a pretty fun one at the moment.

UPDATE: Thanks to Gary, Libby, and all the others at the Alberta Lepidopterists Guild for their providing identifications for the previously unknown moths in bold above.
Gopher Hill - the eponymous high point in our plot of pasture

1 comment:

  1. So sad that I missed the Moth Week! I would have liked to visit some of the events and learn the tricks of the trade and to do some video recordings of Lepsters at work. Hopefully next year.