June 15 - Balsam Lake, City of Kawartha Lakes
June 16 - Innisfil area, Simcoe County
June 17 - Bala area, Muskoka District
June 18 - From Bala to Elk Lake, Timiskaming District
June 19 - Elk Lake to Fraserdale
June 20 - Boreal Butterflies and Woodpeckers of Fraserdale
June 21 - Smooth Rock Falls to Hearst Birding, Matachewan Mothing
June 22 - Matachewan to Hilliardton Marsh
June 23 - Purplish Coppers in Parry Sound District
Due to the ongoing global pandemic, life has been a little (or a lot) different for all of us in various ways. For me, it meant that between late March and August I was stuck in Cambridge, Ontario while I waited out the situation. Laura meanwhile had spent six weeks or so with her parents in Nova Scotia, but otherwise, she was with me in Cambridge.
June is one of my favourite months for naturalizing despite the abundance of biting insects that one has to contend with. I usually spend the better part of the month completing breeding bird surveys and other inventories but this year was different, with my schedule a little more open than usual.
I decided to put this free time to good use and visit a part of the province that I have not had the chance to properly explore. I mean, I had visited many areas between North Bay, Sault Ste Marie, Thunder Bay and Cochrane during the month of June before, but never with a free schedule and all the time in the world to look for whatever I wanted to. And so it was, that on June 15 I found myself driving into the Kawarthas to begin my trip.
My first night was spent with friends Dan and Nikki near Fenelon Falls. The property is on the shores of Balsam Lake, with some deciduous forest, swamp and meadow a short walk away. We set up the sheet in an area with sufficient visibility to the surrounding forest types and waited for the party to start!
Io Moths are a common species in the southern Canadian Shield region in Ontario and mid June is their peak flight time. We were not disappointed and tallied eight or nine of these beauties! Every single one of them was a bright yellow male. This species has strong sexual dimorphism, with females appearing dark brown.
The genus Acronicta contains species commonly referred to as Daggers. These moths are generally gray with streaks and dashes, though the caterpillars are usually quite unique. We observed four species of daggers that night including these two that have fantastic names - the Delightful Dagger (Acronicta vinnula) and the Splendid Dagger (A. superans). The Delightful Dagger is found throughout southern Ontario and does not range much further north than our location at Balsam Lake, while the Splendid Dagger is much more widespread further north.
The subfamily Arctiinae is known as the tiger moths. Species within this subfamily can vary widely in appearance, but some of the flashier moths in Ontario are types of tiger moths. Below are a few that showed up this evening.
Most of the moths that we observed this evening are fairly widespread species; a testament to the somewhat disturbed habitat types that we were mothing within. Perhaps the least common species of the night was this one - the Large-spotted Evergestis (Evergestis unimacula). Not much is known about this moth, such as what plant its caterpillars feed on. In Ontario, most records seem to be in the southern Canadian Shield region.
One of my favourite moths of the night was this beauty - the Pink-shaded Fern Moth (Callopistria mollissima). It was a new species for me at the time, but I would go on and see several more throughout the early summer. You never forget your first...
Moths are well known for sometimes having unusual, evocative names. This next one is aptly named: The Skunk (Polix coloradella). I can see the resemblance!
One of the reasons that moths are so fascinating to me is the sheer diversity of shapes and patterns that they can exhibit. Even during a night like this where we only observed between 80 and 90 species, the dissimilarities between various moths were incredible.
Moths such as the Brown Scoopwing (above) and Black-marked Plume Moth (below) actually have "normal" shaped wings when flying. However, upon landing, they instantly roll up the wings to take on the shapes pictured here. Incredible!
The Two-lined Hooktip below looks like a rolled up, dead leaf. The effect is a little lost when it is dangling from a white sheet, however.
And the American Lappet Moth. This is a very common and widespread moth whose larvae feed on a wide range of deciduous tree species (alder, birch, oak, poplar, rose, etc).
Camouflage is the name of the game for many different moth species. When so many things out there want to eat you, it makes sense. A number of unrelated groups of moths are referred to as bird-dropping moths. I suppose that bird droppings would be good substances to impersonate if you do not want to be predated! This is a good example of convergent evolution since these different groups evolved this independently.
Sphinx Moths (family Sphingidae) were in relatively short supply this evening with only two species making an appearance at the party. Below is a Waved Sphinx.
Silkmoths are easily some of the most spectacular moth species that we have here in Ontario, and early summer is peak season for many of them. This evening, our first silkmoth was a Promethea (Callosamia promethea) which ended up sticking around for several hours. As you will see in my upcoming blog posts, I observed no shortage of silkmoths on this northern trip!
Somewhat later in the evening Dan spotted a Luna Moth flying around in the trees above the sheet. It took a while but eventually it settled in, allowing us to photograph it to our heart's content. As this was only my second Luna Moth ever I made sure that I managed some photos that I was satisfied with.
It seems that some moths go into a sort of trance when they have been sitting on the sheet for an hour or more. This allows you to carefully pick them up and move them around, perhaps to a more photogenic leaf or branch, away from the white sheet. Dan and I had some fun and re-organized some of the flashier moths for a group photo at the end of the night!