Wednesday, April 01, 2009

In Defense of the Moth

Robin over to Dharma Bums got me started on this. You can blame her.

As a rule most creepie crawlie things do not find many fans among us humans. Insects, spiders, grubs and worms are usually just targets for our shoes or the cause of frantic pawing at our hair, head or body when one has the unfortunate luck to land on us. There seems to be a natural handed down human aversion to anything with more than four legs.

There are some "acceptable" bugs out there. Pretty boy species that get all the positive press and glowing reviews. Butterflies and Dragonflies come to mind. They flit around during sunlit days gracing us with their presence. I will admit, both have turned my head with their spiffy colors and awesome flying tricks. But I am not here to talk about the "beautiful insects".

I don't ever remember paying moths much attention before I became a Maine resident. Drab and usually puny, they were just another bug I would brush off when they hit me instead of the light they were aiming at. But live in the sticks in Maine long enough and moths become more than just another insect. I have become convinced Maine is home to more species of moths than anywhere else I have ever lived. Even after finding out from research, that the experts do not agree has not changed my mind. Hundreds of moths will gather on our front porch on almost warm summer nights. Most will be the smaller dull garden variety kind. Often though, moths of amazing size, shapes and colors will find their way to our screen door to greet us in the morning. The Lunar Moth up top is but one of them. I have measured close to a five inch wingspan on some I have found. One of those hits you in the head in the dark of night, and you feel it.

There are moths up here big enough to be mistaken for small birds. This odd looking Hawkmoth(I still have not found out it's exact name, but I think is is a Hawkmoth of some type) here can measure 4 inches across when in resting mode. The variety of moths that live in the woods around me is impressive.

I did some checking on moths. I found some interesting facts about them.

~Moths were first on the scene before butterflies. By about 100 million years

~Most moths it seems do not feed as adults. There are some nectar sucking varieties, but for the most part, it looks like Moths spend all their adult time looking for a date.

~Moths are generally nocturnal. They rest during the day. This is probably the reason for their drab coloring as they do not want to be disturbed while asleep by critters looking to turn them into food.

~Why they beat themselves silly against any light close - well I did not find out why. They are insects ferchrisakes. I don't think they even know why.

~I also found out there is a whole other category in addition to Butterflies and Moths. They are called Skippers. They are most similar to Butterflies, so I will count them in with them.

The differences between moths and butterflies are profound once you are made aware of them.
~Butterflies have long hairless thoraxes and long antennae
~Moths are hairy barrel chested critters with fuzzy cool antennae
~Butterflies can position their wings in vertical mode, moths cannot.
~Butterflies are designed to be seen to attract mates during the day
~Moths are designed to be camouflaged during the day so they can rest

I found this great site that lists all the different species of butterflies, skippers and moths in North America and Mexico. It has a search engine that will pin down the types that are found to a county wide area. I found that supposedly 73 varieties of Butterflies and/or Skippers and 33 varieties of Moths exist or visit my county on a regular basis. Personally, I think they missed a few. One anyway. The unnamed leafy looking one above is a regular visitor to my porch, but not listed in their data banks as having been here.

I come by my fascination with the bug world honestly I guess. I used to watch ants for hours. I even kept an Ant Lion colony going in a shoe box under my bed for a time. Then my mom found it and made me toss it out. Ant lions are very, very cool. But that is another post altogether.




Middle Ditch said...

This is all very interesting. I too often find moths on the windows and doors and am amazed at their shapes and sizes. The biggest one I have seen was a tiger moth, a truly amazing creature.

Chef Cthulhu said...

I never took that much notice of the varieties of moths when I was in Maine. I just remember there being a gawdawful ton of them.

Demeur said...

So that's where all the moths went. We don't seem to have many here in the NW. I only notice them in the fall trying to get in the house. In summer we have cabbage moths little white ones that flutter around the garden.

robin andrea said...

I'm a very big fan of moths. One of the first critter photos I ever took was of a Ceanothus Silk Moth. It was on the side of the building where I worked. Quite a magnificent and huge creature. It truly was love at first sight, and I've been smitten with them ever since. Once you start looking at the insect world, it's hard to ever look away. An ongoing array of weird beauty all around.

Thanks much for the shout out.

Mauigirl said...

Very interesting! When I was a kid I once saw a Cecropia or perhaps it may have been a Polyphemus moth in our garage. It was huge and brownish with big spots on the wings. I've always wanted to see a Luna moth.

When I was little I used to bring home caterpillars and wait till they spun their cocoons and then turned into butterflies or moths. It was a lot of fun.

BBC said...

No See Em's, or whatever they call them, I hate them.

I need something big enough that I can swat the shit out of it when it gets in my space.

I don't pay much attention to bugs, live and let live I say, as long as they are not pestering me.

Not a lot of pretty butterfly's around here anyway.

Utah Savage said...

Interesting post. I've seen moths here as big as small birds like chickadees. When my last cat was in her prime she would occasionally bring one into the house carrying it like a bird dog--gently, so as not to harm it. Then she would release it in the house. She would make it last for hours if I couldn't catch it first and release it outside. Same thing with mice.

I'm going to check out that site for moths in my area.

Randal Graves said...

It seems that moths are getting scarcer by the day, or night, as it were. I see them less and less with each passing year.

BBC said...

The place I notice moths or small butterfly's at the most is along the river banks.

I take it that Birch bark has to be dried and not green to burn? I've never messed with it.