Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘moth

Eupithecia miserulata

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The scientific name in this post’s title is a mouthful, and the common name “common eupithecia” is hardly common outside of lepidopteran groups and entomological websites. The good folks at bugguide.net identified this moth larva for me. At least I knew that the flower head it was on at the entrance to Great Hills Park on May 18th was a firewheel, Gaillardia pulchella, also called Indian blanket and blanketflower. For a closer look at the little green eating machine, click the thumbnail below to zoom in.

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Here’s an item for the Fiction Rivals Reality department. On March 30, 1981, when recently inaugurated President Ronald Reagan was shot in an assassination attempt, he seemed initially unharmed. Secret Service agent Jerry Parr then noticed a little foamy blood on Reagan’s mouth, realized he’d been hit after all, and saw to it that he was rushed to a hospital. According to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal that refers to the book Zero Fail, by reporter Carol Leonnig: “When Parr was a kid he saw a 1939 movie, ‘Code of the Secret Service,’ which made him want to be an agent. The central character, fearless agent Brass Bancroft, was played by Ronald Reagan, whose life Parr saved some four decades later. Life is full of strange, unseen circularities.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 25, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Estigmene acrea

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“What’s that white thing?” That’s what I wondered when I glimpsed a little white area on one of several distant narrowleaf sumpweed* plants (Iva angustifolia) that were flowering in my neighborhood on September 29th. After I walked closer I saw that it was a moth**, which I take to be Estigmene acrea, known as the saltmarsh moth. An even closer look revealed that on the sumpweed it had laid some tiny pearl-like eggs, several clusters of which you can discern in the photograph. The three larger round yellowish areas interspersed across the bottom of the picture were out-of-focus broomweed flowers (Amphiachyris dracunculoides).

* Sumpweeds (which you might be surprised to learn that botanists put in the sunflower family) are close relatives of ragweeds. Like those better-known plants, sumpweeds’ airborne pollen at this time of year causes hayfever in susceptible people, including this photographer who sometimes sneezes his way through the autumn landscape for the sake of pictures from nature.

** Modern English moth developed from Old English moððe, where the ð represented the sound we now spell th. People must have found it troublesome—as we would—to pronounce two th‘s in a row and therefore dropped one of them (along with the supporting vowel that followed, thereby reducing the word to a single syllable).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 8, 2020 at 4:43 AM

What is that?

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That’s what we wondered at the Doeskin Ranch on November 24th after Eve spotted this strange thing and waited for me to catch up from my picture-taking so she could point it out. I’d read about insects that cover themselves with objects to act as camouflage, and that’s what appeared to have happened here. To learn the specifics, I turned to local expert Val Bugh, who identified this as “a bagworm moth case (Psychidae). Our big species here is Oiketicus abbotii (if I’m correct in estimating your example is about 2 inches long [she was correct] — the small species are less than half as big). This bag is empty and the exuviae is sticking out the bottom, indicating a male eclosed and flew off. The females never leave their sac.”

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 29, 2018 at 4:39 AM

Bedstraw hawkmoth caterpillar

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While walking around a stretch of Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, on September 7th, we encountered a handsome caterpillar on a fireweed plant (Chamaenerion or Chamerion or Epilobium angustifolium). A member of bugguide.net identified, and another at Butterflies and Moths of North America later confirmed, my subject as the larva of Hyles gallii, a type of Sphinx moth known as a bedstraw hawkmoth.

A few of you may remember the forlorn Hyles lineata moth that appeared here in 2012.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 6, 2017 at 4:52 AM

Green on green in the greenbelt

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In the greenbelt off Taylor Draper Ln. on October 7th I found what I think is the larva of a moth on a leaf of what I know is a buffalo gourd vine, Cucurbita foetidissima.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 14, 2016 at 4:45 AM

Soft greeneyes and a visitor of a different color

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Reddish-Orange Moth on Greeneyes Flower Head 1869

You’re looking at a flower head of Berlandiera pumila, known as soft greeneyes, and a glance at its central disk explains the second part of that common name. When I prepared this post I originally wrote “I wish I had a name to give you for the colorful moth,” but since then the good folks at BugGuide have identified this as Schinia volupia, called a painted schinia moth. Apparently insects in the genus Schinia are known as flower moths, and they’re in the family Noctuidae, whose members people refer to as owlet moths. The tiny insect in the upper right is some kind of tumbling flower beetle.

Like the last several photographs, this one comes from an April 27th field trip to Bastrop State Park led by botanist Bill Carr.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 11, 2014 at 6:01 AM

Tufted moth

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Tufted Moth on Grass Seed Head 8871

Click for better clarity.

Near the end of my December 18th walk in the Upper Bull Creek Greenbelt I noticed this tufted moth on a grass seed head. Wouldn’t you like to have antennae like those?

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 22, 2014 at 5:55 AM

More orange

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Ctenucha Moth on Eupatorium serotinum Flowers 4340

Click for greater clarity.

As I wandered along the trail on August 19th at Hamilton Pool Preserve, not only did I see an orange butterfly, but also a bunch of orange-collared moths on some Eupatorium serotinum, a white-blossoming member of the same tribe, Eupatorieae, as the blue mistflower that was blooming nearby. From what I’ve found online, this kind of moth might be Cisseps fulvicollis; on the other hand, it looks like it could be Ctenucha virginica; but then again, it also resembles Acoloithus falsarius (except that in that species the orange collar is supposedly bisected by a strip of black). Entomologists, feel free to lend your expertise to, as Wikipedia likes to put it, disambiguate the situation.

For the technically minded: this moth kept moving around on the flowers, so I used a shutter speed of 1/500 sec. to stop the action. Because the insect was in almost constant motion, I didn’t have the luxury of taking time to align the camera’s focal plane with as much of the moth’s body as possible. Faced with that difficult situation, I kept my focus on the bright orange patch on the back of the moth’s head, knowing that other parts of its body wouldn’t be as sharp.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 15, 2013 at 6:13 AM

When one becomes two as two become one

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When I was tramping about in the large field of goldenrod at the corner of E. Stassney Ln. and Burleson Rd. in southeast Austin on October 1st, I came across a narrow white moth with black spots that was on a young Ashe juniper tree, Juniperus ashei. I took a bunch of pictures of the unknown (to me) moth, and later I did an Internet search to see if I could identify it. Only when I looked at the first picture on the left in the Wikipedia article about the salt marsh moth, Estigmene acrea, did I realize that in fact I’d photographed two moths mating; in looking at my own pictures, I’d noticed the antennae at the top but not at the bottom. Unobservant me. But the moths were caught up enough in what they were doing that apparently neither of them noticed me, so I guess we’re even.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 16, 2012 at 6:16 AM

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