Tag Archives: National Moth Week

Moth Night photographs

I’ve been out mothing before (with my dad and his moth friends), but I finally made it to an official National Moth Week event this past Saturday at Natural Lands Trust‘s Hildacy Farm Preserve. It was raining so there wasn’t a great turnout (by the moths), but below are several photographs from the evening.

To set the scene for those of you who haven’t had the experience: we had a flood light, a mercury vapor light, and a blacklight set up next to a couple of white sheets. Any one of them would work just fine, but the more light the better, in general. Even a cell phone screen can attract moths.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; moth-blacklight

The large moth in silhouette above is a Pandora sphinx moth (Eumorpha pandorus). I think the person is entomologist Tanya Dapkey of the University of Pennsylvania. Bigger photo of the moth is below.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; pandora-sphinx-moth

Here’s a copper underwing (Amphipyra pyramidoides), one of two that I found on a tree far away from the lights. E.g., you can go out at night with a flashlight and find moths just hanging out.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; copper-underwing-head

This moth was also just hanging out, avoiding the rain. I think it’s a spotted Phosphila (Phosphila miselioides).

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; green-arches-moth

Just in case you want to start planning your own Moth Night, National Moth Week will be July 22-30 in 2017.

Hummingbird and snowberry clearwing moths

Here are some photographs of the hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe) and the snowberry clearwing moth (H. diffinis).

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Hummingbird and snowberry clearwing moths

Day-active, colorful moths are rare enough, but these take it to the next level in their uncanny mimicry of hummingbirds and bumblebees, respectively. The mimicry presumably protects them from being eaten by predators such as crab spiders, praying mantids, and birds. In addition to the obvious behavioral and morphological resemblance to hummingbirds and bumblebees, the moths also make a slight humming noise that completes the disguise. The noise could easily be an unavoidable consequence of hovering flight (approximately 30 beats/second), but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if their wings are rigged in some way to exaggerate the noise. I’d love to know the answer to that. My other burning question is why the hummingbird clearwing moth has clear wings at all … I would expect selection to favor individuals that did not lose scales, because such a mutant would more resemble a hummingbird, which has opaque wings. I’m guessing that reason is not because fully-scaled wings are too heavy — the hummingbird hawk moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) in the Old World has opaque wings and can manage 70-90 beats/second (wow). I wonder whether a fully scaled wing might damp the humming sound. All photographs were taken at Natural Lands Trust’s Hildacy Farm Preserve in Media, Pennsylvania. Oh, and happy National Moth Week.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe) with unfurling proboscis

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe) showing wing veination

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe) nectaring

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe) nectaring at wild bergamot

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe) nectaring at wild bergamot

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe) arriving at flower

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe) nectaring at wild bergamot

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Snowberry clearwing moth (Hemaris diffinis)

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Snowberry clearwing moth (Hemaris diffinis)