Wednesday, July 24, 2013

All moths are interesting, but some are more interesting than others

Two-spotted Looper outshines a Double Dart
Back on the Moth Farm the clouds continue their unending downpour. I huddle next to the wood stove and wonder if the gophers must be learning to swim. The moths, though, seem content to wing their way through the mists between showers and provide some colourful relief from the dreary doldrums of summer in Alberta. Well, some provide colourful relief, but others seem content to blend into the grey background. Compare these two Owlet Moths (Noctuidae): the brightly patterned Two-spotted Looper Autographa bimaculata (Stephens, 1830) and the dull as dishwater Double Dart Graphiphora augur (Fabricius, 1775).
Two-spotted Looper Autographa bimaculata
Bright silver spots, squiggles, scripts and autographs are characteristics of many Owlet Moths but especially those in the subfamily Plusiinae and subtribe Plusiina and are reflected in many generic names based on the Greek root grapho (= write) such as Anagrapha, Autographa, Megalographa, and Syngrapha. What the genus Plusia may refer to, however, is a mystery. 
Putnam's Looper Plusia putnami Grote, 1873
A mystery too is why the silver spots and squiggles? Since similar marking occur on unrelated moths, one might think they serve some function. Perhaps they reflect moonlight or sonar to dazzle bats. In any case, the clouds continue to scuttle across the sky, dropping rain, rain, rain and the moths flutter between squalls and hunker down during them.
The Hooked Silver Y Syngrapha alias (Ottolengui, 1902)


  1. Nice Shots! I have saw some pictures of two-spotted looper previously but they were not sharp and beautiful just like your pictures. Beautiful moth isn't?

  2. I agree Birdy - not on the quality of the images, these few barely worthy shots were culled from a dozen dodgers, but what a great moth. So intricate, so mysterious, so very mothy.