Monday, July 19 was another hot and humid day. The rain held off and by dusk the conditions were excellent for another night of mothing. This time I met up with Moe Bottos to explore the King's Forest area in Hamilton.
Moe is a fellow moth aficionado based in Essex County. Underwing moths (Catocala) are his passion, and we were hoping to discover a nice diversity of species in King's Forest. I had never mothed this area before and was excited for what was in store.
As dusk fell, Moe painted his sugar mixture on a number of the mature trees found throughout this area. Meanwhile, I set up my two lights - the Lepiled and a blacklight - and we waited for the moths!
Right from the beginning, we knew that it would be in for a good showing of Catocala. The bait mixture was working as numerous moth and other insect species were taking advantage. At least four species of Idia moths were present, along with Common Fungus Moth, Armyworm Moth, American Copper Underwings (not a "true" Catocala underwing) and others.
The first few Catocala had found the bait right away; these early arrivals all appeared to be in the blandula/crataegi/mira species complex. These three species, commonly referred to as Charming, Hawthorn and Wonderful Underwings, are all very similar. Some experts feel that they can not be definitely identified based on their external appearance.
Our suspicions were correct; it was, indeed, an excellent evening for Catocala. We totalled eight species, and probably close to 40 individuals. The most common (by far) was the blandula/crataegi/mira complex with maybe 20 individuals present.
Ilia Underwing was common as well. This is a very large Catocala with a red and black striped hindwing that is seen early in the season.
Before I get to the rest of the Catocala, I wanted to touch on some of the action at the lights. I had set up both of my lights in a section of mature Sugar Maple-dominated forest with smaller numbers of other hardwoods. The visibility of my lights was excellent as I was on the side of a hillside. Early on, some interesting moths appeared at the sheets.
Longhorn beetles put in a solid showing as well. Below are a few of my favourites from the evening.
And while we are on the theme of beetles, a few others...
Back to Catocala. Moe had sugared quite a number of trees along a route that we walked frequently. It would take fifteen to twenty minutes to walk the route, meaning that once we were back to the start it was time to walk it again! We observed very few underwings in the Sugar Maple dominated forest; it was in the areas with higher tree diversity and along the edges where most of the Catocala were noted. Another common species was the Once-married Underwing (Catocala unijuga). This large species has an intricate light gray pattern on the forewings, along with striking red and black hindwings.
Most Once-married Underwings were photographed as they fed on the bait, though one individual also found its way to one of the sheets.
The Ultronia Underwing is one of my favourite species of Catocala. They are highly variable, with all varieties being quite attractive. We noted four or five individuals.
The Yellow-banded Underwing was the last species of larger Catocala that we identified, with two individuals present.
The final two species of Catocala on the evening were the Little Lined Underwing and Woody Underwing. The former feeds on oak (Quercus), while the latter prefers apple (Malus), hawthorn (Crataegus), and cherry (Prunus).
Moe departed sometime just after midnight as he had an early run scheduled for the following morning. As my morning plans did not include strenuous exercise at an unreasonably early hour, I decided to stay out a little bit later. I had hardly devoted much time to scrutinizing the sheets since the Catocala walking loop had taken up most of our time, and I was curious what else had come in.
I am glad I did, since I noted several small black and white cosmet moths which I could not identify. The next day I was able to identify them as Stagmatophora wyattella, a species which ranges in the eastern half of the United States as far north as Ohio and New York. I believe that these are the first records for Ontario, with only one previous Canadian record that I can find (from southern Quebec).
This tiny moth is a rather uncommon species of leafminer called Caloptilia canadensisella. Its foodplant is Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis).
This next species is actually a very common moth, but it is so attractive that I can't leave it out!
And below are a few more moths that I photographed on the sheets before calling it a night. The evening had been exceptionally productive, and a huge highlight of National Moth Week for me.
After four late nights in a row, I was ready to have a couple of evenings off from mothing. But by Thursday I found myself back at Sudden Tract. The habitat is so good there and the possibilities are almost endless that I just couldn't waste another night of great weather!
The rarest moth of the night was one that I immediately recognized. That was because I had documented this very same species a year ago at this exact location! This species is Catocala gracilis, the Graceful Underwing, and it feeds on blueberry. Apparently, Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) is its preferred food-plant over much of its range, a plant that is found in the wetland complex at Sudden Tract. While this species has been seen in Ontario before (it is on the official checklist), the only two records I can find are the two that I have had at Sudden Tract.
While not a Catocala, the bright yellow and black underwings are probably why this next species is called the Catocaline Dart.
This attractive species is called the Moonseed Moth. As its name implies, it feeds on a vine called Moonseed (Menispermum canadense).
You know I have to include at least one longhorn beetle from Sudden Tract. The Pole Borer doesn't really look like a longhorn beetle, considering its horns are rather short!
Leafhoppers can have some pretty wild colours and patterns. It just so happens that most species are quite tiny, causing their beauty to fly under the radar for most people.
I am not 100% positive, but I am pretty sure that this next grass-veneer is Neodactria caliginosellus, the Black Grass-Veneer. This species is rarely reported from Ontario.
Apart from the above Black Grass-veneer, the other "lifer" moth for me this evening was this next one; an olethreutine moth called Paralobesia spiraefoliana. There are very few photos of this species online - for instance, there is only one other record of the species on iNaturalist, and only a few specimens on Bugguide - but it is listed for the Ontario checklist. I assume from its latin name that the caterpillars of this species feed on Meadowsweet (Spiraea).
With a lot of these micro-moths, identifications are best confirmed by dissecting and analyzing the genitalia. As I haven't been collecting moths and I am just taking photos, perhaps the identify of this species and several others in the post should be noted as tentative. While the forewing patterns appear to line up perfectly, there is a chance that the ID is wrong, or that an undescribed species is involved.
The following species is one of my favourite moths - the Eyed Paectes. Its "eyes" kind of remind me of Kaa's hypnotic eyes from Disney's version of Jungle Book.
And a few more photos of the night's haul at Sudden Tract...
By the end of the evening, I was sitting at approximately 310 species for National Moth Week with a few days still remaining. The next (and final) instalment in this series will include mothing adventures at St. William's forest in Norfolk County, followed by another night at Sudden Tract.
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