On Friday, July 23 I headed south towards Norfolk County for an evening of mothing at St. William's Forestry Reserve. I have experienced a lot of success here in the past; not surprising, really, given the high plant diversity in the general area, many with southern affinities. Tonight's weather was suitable enough (though a couple of degrees cooler than I would have liked) and I had high hopes!
One of the first moths to appear at my LepiLED was this beast - my very first Five-spotted Hawkmoth. The larvae of this sphinx moth, referred to as the tomato hornworm, is perhaps more well-known than the adults since it is often considered a garden pest. That being said, I was thrilled to see my first adult. They really are impressive moths.
Two other species of sphinx moths attended the festivities this evening including Modest Sphinx and Twin-spotted Sphinx. Both of these seem to be pretty common across most of Ontario.
Mid-July is Gypsy Moth season in the Great Lakes region and the last two summers have seen particularly high numbers in certain regions. The abundance of oak at St. Williams is attractive to the caterpillars, and numerous females were laying eggs on the tree trunks.
I tend to focus on the micromoths due to their incredible species diversity, and of course, the impressive variety in their shapes and patterns. There were a few of interest this evening including two I had never identified before.
The above moth is a rarely recorded species of leaf blotch miner that feeds on blueberry. Below, a different Caloptilia that prefers tick-trefoil (Desmodium).
To quickly divert away from moths...Fruit flies are, to most people, nothing more than a pest that magically appears whenever overripe fruit is sitting out on the counter. A wide variety of fruit flies live in Ontario and you may be surprised by the incredible variability in these attractive little flies. This species, Euaresta bella, is one that I commonly encounter at the moth sheet.
If you have read the first two posts in this series about National Moth Week 2021, you will have seen that Catocala underwing moths feature prominently. It was a slow night at the sheets for Catocala this evening, though a single Ultronia Underwing appeared at the black light.
The family Crambidae is one of my favourites, and I was pleased to see a couple of somewhat rare crambids this evening. These next three species look very similar in overall shape - indeed, the are all in the subfamily Glaphyriinae. Moths in this subfamily are notable because they are able to digest the glucosinolate compounds in plants from the order Brassicales. Glucosinolates, also referred to as mustard oils, are the compounds which impart a bitter flavour to Brussel's sprouts, cabbage, kale, broccoli, and other familiar cruciferous vegetables. The presence of these compounds forms a natural defence for the plant against most insect pests - except from moths in Glaphyriinae!
All three of these crambids are uncommon at best in Ontario, and restricted to the southern tier of the province (often referred to as the Carolinian zone).
This next crambid is quite the stunner! It is the Curve-lined Vaxi (formerly known as the Curve-lined Argyria), and a species that I have only noted a handful of times in my brief two years of mothing.
The last crambid I will feature from St. Williams is the Snowy Urola, an extremely shiny species that is tough to photograph!
The emerald moths certainly provide a jot of colour on the sheet when juxtaposed with the browns, grays and tans of most moth species.
The wing pattern on this next moth is quite trippy. This is one of two very similar looking species in Rheumpatera, commonly referred to as the Scallop Shell Moths. The larvae of one species feeds on chokecherry, while the other feeds on a wide variety of deciduous trees and shrubs.
Despite it being a slower night of mothing than I am typically accustomed to at St. Williams, I still came away with a good number of new species for National Moth Week, including three species that were completely new for me. Below are a few final individuals from the evening.
For the final evening of National Moth Week 2021 I returned to my favourite local place - Sudden Tract.
The diversity at this location just blows my mind. Without fail I add new species to my Sudden Tract moth list with each excursion. At the time of writing (September 10), my Sudden Tract Lepidoptera list sits at 670 species, in less than 25 total visits. I added around 10 new moths this evening as well, including the following individuals.
One highlight of the night was my first Acrocercops albinatella, a type of leaf blotch miner.
I also observed my first Olethreutes footiana. This genus includes many lookalike species, though others (such as this one) are fairly easy to identify based on their wing patterns. All other Ontario records that I can find of this species are from Norfolk, Hamilton, and Toronto.
This plume moth was also a new one for me - a One-spotted Plume Moth (Hellinsia paleaceus).
The hits just kept on coming. I believe this next moth is Acrobasis normella, another rarely reported species. It, too was new for my Sudden Tract list (and is likely the first one reported from Waterloo Region).
No summer visit to Sudden Tract is complete without a Pickerelweed Borer (or five). This rarely reported species seems to be downright common in the right habitat here.
The area where I often setup my sheets is close to a large wetland complex. As a result, I see a high diversity of moth species whose caterpillars feed on aquatic plants (like the Pickerelweed Borer, above). Below is my first Polymorphic Pondweed Moth for Sudden Tract, a long-awaited addition to the site's species list.
This Eastern Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus) had set up shop on a tree trunk close to my blacklight, perhaps hoping for an easy meal.
In Canada, Herpetogramma theseusalis is known from only a handful of specimens (most from Quebec), as well as a few from Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Preferring boggy habitats, its larvae are leaf-rollers of Marsh Fern and, to a lesser extent, Cinnamon Fern and Sensitive Fern. I have been fortunate to see this species on three occasions. This was my first for Sudden Tract (and Waterloo Region).
I will finish this post with one of the more spectacular moth species on the night - the Harris's Three-spot (Harrisimemna trisignata). When it was all said and done, I had recorded around 376 species for National Moth Week. This total was a little lower than what I had managed in 2020, but I was still pretty pleased with the tally. It was an absolute blast and I can't wait for the next National Moth Week!