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.
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.
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.
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),
American Copper, flying around a large field of very short grass that I wouldn’t have expected to have any butterflies,
and Zebra Swallowtail, neither of which ranges as far west as New Mexico.
Other goodies on the butterfly list included Great Spangled Fritillary,
large numbers of Red-spotted Purple,
the tiny Eastern Tailed-Blue,
Common Roadside-Skipper, whose identity eluded us for a few minutes,
and at the Chilo Locks on the drive back to the Cincinnati airport, Peck’s Skipper.
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.
Some of the other crowd pleasers were some of the larger moths in the Saturniidae family, including the very cool Luna Moth,
the Polyphemus Moth,
and the Promethea Moth.
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,
and the Giant Leopard Moth.
Others that caught my eye and I was able to identify included the Tuliptree Beauty,
and these two guys.
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.
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.