Monday, 9 April 2012

Like Moths to a Deck Light

That might be the least poetic title yet, but it is apt.  Besides, if I used a flame there would be moths spiraling out of the sky with smoldering wings.  And burning moth hair probably smells funny, too!

We have the odd moth species locally that can be found right through the winter, but we are now back in proper moth season.  I usually start turning on the deck light as soon as March rolls around to see if anything is flying.  This year it wasn't really until April that things really got rolling, but the diversity has really started soaring now.

To give a little background to this taxonomic group in relation to the nerd behind the blog, I decided to give moth identification a go many moons ago.  I believe it was in the summer of 2010 that my biological attention deficit disorder (BADD) - that's not an official disorder, but it's real - drew me in to the world of well-lit, spackled hotel walls during work trips.  Every morning I would wander around the hotel like a creep and search for moths under lights.  The hardest part was not looking like a pervert - that came naturally because I was wielding a camera and had a wicked field beard.  The hard part was identifying the moths.  I quickly learned that conventional resources were virtually non-existent.  As a birder, I am used to referencing several species-comprehensive field guides.  No such reference exists for the moths of the province.  I scoured the internet and slowly began to build a virtual equivalent.  Also, to keep it simple, I decided to limit my scope to the macromoths because the order Lepidoptera has nearly 2300 species that occur in British Columbia (although a more recent estimate I received puts it over 2500), and over 2100 of those are moths.  Furthermore, just over half of the moths are macromoths so even tackling this subset is daunting.  Over a year and a half later I'm still chipping away at it.

Before getting to the recent deck light delinquents, I would like to pass on my frequently-used internet resources for anyone interested in learning their moths:

Moths of Canada (Government of Canada - Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility)

North American Moth Photographers Group

University of Alberta Strickland Museum

E-Fauna BC (Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia)


Flickr Members

Alright, without further ado here is a selection of shots from the recent moth activity attracted to the deck light I leave on at night.

Eupithecia olivacea

Orthosia hibisci

Nola minna

Pleromelloida conserta

Possibly rare - Eupithecia gilvipennata

Xylena nupera

Lithophane innominata

Feralia deceptiva

That's just a sample of what's flying out there.  The patterns and colours of these moths are quite stunning!  I had been hoping for Feralia deceptiva to show up again and it popped in while I was writing this entry.  I wonder what the next weeks will bring.  If you're interested in seeing what's out there, flip on an outside light and see how it goes.  The whole moth identification thing can be very rewarding if you're a sucker for punishment!

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