Sunday, July 29, 2012

Moth Week Wrap-up: Ending with a bang and a whimper

A couple of meal moths enjoying our recliner
Tonight the sun will set on International Moth Week. We've had far more fun than expected and the Home Bug Gardeners, moved from moth-neutral to moth-enthusiasts, now understand the AltaLepers a bit better. Anyone willing to take the time to stop, look, and learn a bit is likely to develop an interest in creepy crawlies, but moths seem an especially easy group with which to become enthralled.
Pyralis farinalis (Linnaeus, 1758) - Meal Moths
That doesn't mean we are going to let some moth move in and and start eating us out of house and home! Quite a few moths are pests, both in the home and in the garden, so appropriate control measures will sometimes be needed. Once we had identified these rather attractive moths frolicking on our furniture as Pyralis farinalis, we knew to start looking for flour or grains with silken webbing, frass, and grubs. Squish went the moths and out into the frigid April trash went the flour. When buying bulk grains, flour, or nuts, it is not a bad idea to freeze the lot for a week. That seems to take care of the Meal Moth and its even more destructive cousin the Indian Meal Moth Plodia interpunctella (Hübner, 1813) as well. We pick and squish garden pests on a case-by-case basis. We don't really mind loosing a few leaves to a few caterpillars, but just a few. If they are too numerous or too deadly, then we loose the plants to bugs or spade. The spots left by the pest-susceptible plants can always be filled with something new and resistant. We do what we can to encourage natural enemies, but a small urban garden really isn't the best place to attempt chemical control (especially since the chemicals available to a home owner here are mostly ineffective on pests but a threat to the helpful and innocuous insects).
Dysstroma hersiliata (Guenée, 1858) – the Orange-banded Carpet Moth   
The moth pests that gave rise to moth balls, clothes and carpet moths (Tineidae) don't seem to be a problem in the Home Bug Garden, but we do have some rather attractive moths that remind people of carpets. The Orange-banded one above feeds on currant leaves. We do have currants, but sawflies and mildew make a mess of them long before we get any harvest. So this uncommon and attractive moth is welcome to the leftovers.
Zig-Zag Moth  Rheumaptera undulata (Linnaeus, 1758)
The Zig-Zag looks like a carpet on psychedelics - and just looking at it gives my friend Matthias a headache. Its caterpillars feed on a number of deciduous trees and shrubs, including willows and poplars, but seemingly their natural enemies keep them in check. The adults fly during the day, but aren't at all common here. 
Pale Metanema  Metanema inatomaria Guenée, 1857
The same can be said for the night-flying Pale Metanema. Its larvae feed on poplars and willows, but the adults are rare enough to be a pleasant surprise.
Prochoerodes lineola (Goeze, 1781) – Large Maple Spanworm    
I could go on and on and on, as recent converts are won't to do, but Moth Week is coming to a close. This "Large Maple Spanworm" showed up at our blacklight last night, one of the few forest moths to do so. Perhaps it is more of a pest in the East where maples grow, but in Alberta its larvae get by on a variety of other trees. Perhaps it outbreaks now and again, but in general its parasites and predators seem to keep it in check. We'd be happy to have it in the Home Bug Garden. Like most of the insects here, moths are more interesting than not, and rarely a problem. So, let's end with one last carpet moth, Xanthorhoe decoloraria (Esper, 1806), on its last day, helping to make more Goldenrod Crab Spiders.
A carpet moth becoming a host of baby crab spiders

1 comment:

  1. Great post! so happy to hear you moved from moth-neutral to moth-enthusiasts. I will link this post and the one from yesterday to our blog at
    happy mothing!