Midnight Mothers

Just back from almost a week in Ohio attending Mothapalooza 2017. Our butterflying friend, Linda, has attended all five of these annual events and has regularly recommended we check it out, so this year Rebecca and I signed up and flew out there for it. Quite an interesting and informative experience that was very well-organized and held at the Shawnee Lodge and Conference Center near Portsmouth, Ohio. The primary focus of the event was on the incredible variety of moths that would be attracted at night by black lights set up in a number of locations near the lodge and out in the forest. Running from 10pm to 2am, expert “moth-ers” would set up their lights and identify many of the creatures attracted to them, including moths, some crazy cool beetles and other night-flying insects. Several vans were provided to drive among the various sites and these enthusiasts would keep at it well into early morning. Being new to all this, we’d manage to visit a couple of different sites but only lasted until about midnight. During the days leading up to the midnight mothing, we’d join field trips led by a number of experts in different subject areas, slowly making our way stopping to examine any number of different insects, butterflies, birds, and plants that crossed our path. Later in the evening, the conference featured several excellent talks focused on different aspects of moths and their caterpillars.

During those day trips, we’d end up adding new species of butterflies to our life lists; for me these included the Harvester (the only carnivorous butterfly in North America and one I’d been wanting to see for quite some time), Southern Cloudywing, and Eastern Comma. I spotted one we’d seen before that got everyone excited and must be unusual for Ohio, the Golden Banded-Skipper.  It posed nicely for several minutes on a nearby tulip poplar leaf for everybody on the field trip to get a good look.

Golden Banded-Skipper (Autochton cellus)

On our last field trip, one person in our group spotted that Harvester in a very good butterfly location (Pond Lick Road) we visited several times and where it had been seen by others the day before. Unlike most butterflies in my experience, this guy just sat there the whole time we were there and let me get quite a few photographs from a fairly close distance.

Harvester (Feniseca tarquinius)

I’m guessing Harvesters aren’t quite as rare as I thought, since the locals seemed much more excited spotting an American Snout, a butterfly often seen in good numbers in Texas and New Mexico.

American Snout (Libytheans carinenta)

All told, we’d see nearly 40 butterfly species many of which we rarely if ever see in New Mexico. Some of my favorites included the Common Wood-Nymph (which isn’t nearly as colorful out west),

Common Wood-Nymph (Cercyonis pegala)

American Copper, flying around a large field of very short grass that I wouldn’t have expected to have any butterflies,

American Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

Spicebush Swallowtail,

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)

and Zebra Swallowtail, neither of which ranges as far west as New Mexico.

Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)

Other goodies on the butterfly list included Great Spangled Fritillary,

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)

Little Yellow,

Little Yellow (Pyrisitia lisa)

large numbers of Red-spotted Purple,

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis)

Northern Pearly-eye,

Northern Pearly-eye (Enodia anthedon)

the tiny Eastern Tailed-Blue,

Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)

Common Roadside-Skipper, whose identity eluded us for a few minutes,

Common Roadside-Skipper (Amblyscirtes vialis)

and at the Chilo Locks on the drive back to the Cincinnati airport, Peck’s Skipper.

Peck’s Skipper (Polites peckius)

Of course, the main point of this event was seeing what showed up at night drawn to those black lights. Of all the different moths that appeared, one of my favorites was the colorful Io Moth, which is apparently seen regularly but was completely new to me.

Io Moth (Automeris io)

Some of the other crowd pleasers were some of the larger moths in the Saturniidae family, including the very cool Luna Moth,

Luna Moth (Actias luna)

the Polyphemus Moth,

Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus)

and the Promethea Moth.

Promethea Moth (Callosamia promethea)

There is an amazing variety of size, shapes, and colors among moths and an astonishingly large number of species. It seems not at all unusual to have new, undescribed species turn up, which I suspect may draw people to this hobby.

A couple of the other ones we’d see turn up at the different locations we visited included the Rosy Maple Moth with its crazy pink color,

Rosy Maple Moth (Dryocampa rubicunda)

and the Giant Leopard Moth.

Giant Leopard Moth (Epcantheria scribonia)

Others that caught my eye and I was able to identify included the Tuliptree Beauty,

Tuliptree Beauty (Epimecis hortaria)

and these two guys.

Virginia Creeper Sphinx & Banded Tussock Moth (Darapsa myron & Halysidota tesselaris)

Now and then, in addition to all those moths, a few other interesting insects would be attracted by the lights, including a huge Eastern Hercules Beetle and this rather large Stag Beetle.

Stag Beetle (Lucanus capreolus)

Really quite an interesting trip, not only adding a few more new butterflies to my list, but also fun getting a good introduction to this new dimension of moths and their caterpillars along with a few other new insects.








About joeschelling

Birding, butterflies, nature photography, and travel blog from right here in Albuquerque New Mexico.
This entry was posted in Bugs, Butterfly, Photographs, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Midnight Mothers

  1. Rebecca Gracey says:

    Your butterfly and moth pictures are beautiful. The moths add a new dimension to your nature shots.

  2. 1nmbirder says:

    What a fun trip!! I’m happy you got some new sightings. I have to admit I’ve never heard we had a carnivorous butterfly 🤔

  3. Fotohabitate says:

    On such an excursion I would like to participate one day. What a variety of beautiful moths! I”m really surprised. Thanks for showing.

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