We had some visitors a few days ago. One was my brother, the mother, and the others were moths. That's not a typo - my brother is a moth-er. He's also a birder. So, as you could easily guess; while he was visiting we looked for moths during the evening and went birding in the morning.
He brought his mothing equipment and set it up in our yard.
This consisted of a piece of an old white sheet, some rope and clothespins to hang it up, and a pole to hang a black incandescent light nearby. We put a couple of bricks on the bottom of the sheet so it wouldn't move around if a wind came up. Then we plugged in the light.
The next step in getting ready for potential moth visitors was to paint some moth bait on tree bark. (thanks to my sister-in-law, who had mixed up a batch and sent it along). A tree in our yard was selected, along with a tree right at the edge of the water down by the swamp -- in the hope of attracting some boggy-type moths.
Now, all we needed was for some moths to show up, and it didn't take long!
As soon as it started getting dark, the moths started coming to the light and landing on the sheet. No one seems to really know for sure why moths are attracted to light. There is an interesting article about that subject by a Penn State entomologist you can read by clicking here.
Once the moths land on the sheet, most of them will stay right there while you photograph them. My brother photographs each kind and then later looks them up in his field guide. He prints out a photo of each new species he sees and adds it to an album. I did not ask him how many kinds he has in it (and I'm not sure he knows the number, as he's more interested in seeing them than counting). But he already has one album full and has started a second.
We would look at the moths on the sheet for awhile, then go check the baited trees. This is the one by the swamp:
We didn't get too many moths on the trees. The moon was very bright that night and it was clear and cool. This made it a nice night be be outside, but those aren't optimum weather conditions for seeing moths. (A mild, cloudy, still night is best). However, we did have fun tromping around looking! It was bright enough to see our shadows from just the moonlight, which reminded me of how we used to play shadow tag on the farm when we were kids. (We could turn on the 'barn light' which was on the peak of the dairy barn and run around the driveway - do kids play shadow tag anymore?)
Not being used to taking photos in the dark of small creatures on white sheets, it took me awhile to get the hang of it! While my brother was clicking away, I did manage to get a few nice shots though.
I don't have a field guide to moths and so I will have to wait for my brother to tell me what these are.
It's nice to be able to depend on your big brother for many things. *wink wink*
There are more kinds of moths than there are butterflies...but less study has been done about them, so 'citizen scientists' can add to the information known about them by contributing information about their sightings. If you are interested, here's a link a to a pdf called "How to Start Mothing" that has lots of good information (it's from an organization in the UK called Moths Count - which actually makes it kind of fun to read just because they use different terminology like 'torch' instead of flashlight).
Meanwhile, back to our moths...
As I said, many of them would land on the sheet and remain there, but there were a few that fluttered around and didn't stay put for a photo. We would turn our 'torches' off and hope they would land, and then spot light to try to see what we had.
They could be anywhere on the sheet...
My husband found a few by looking on the nearby tree trunk, too. We didn't get many to come to the bait though. My luck with photographing them was also not the greatest. It wasn't exactly easy to use my camera in the dark! Here's a somewhat blurry photo of one moth that came to our bait.
Different moths showed up at intervals so we kept checking for awhile.
One of the 'prettiest' ones we had was this Harnessed Tiger Moth.
It hung out for awhile with some buddies.
That little green one is neat! And, I liked their glowing eyes in that shot. There were some other little insects... namely mosquitoes, but I didn't get any bites.
The moth in the above photo is a Horned Spanworm Moth. When I looked it up online I discovered it could also be called an Antique Map Moth, which I like the sound of better! (see article here).
It was getting late, and though we were having fun it was time to get to bed... so we could get up and go birding in the morning! (I love my big brother!). He and I saw 42 species of birds (and numerous butterflies and dragonflies) the next day before he had to leave.
Thank you, brother!