Moth week

It took another week, but here at last are my moth week pictures.  There were nowhere near as many moths as last year, perhaps because it was much cooler in the evenings this year.

First I had to get ready. Lights set up to shine through a sheet on the window.  Note the moth orchid mascot.

Moth week setup - inside
Moth week setup – inside

Plank between ladders as platform for tripod.  My wife said “you are very strange”, but I can’t really deny that.

Moth week setup - outside
Moth week setup – outside

The first moth didn’t need any set up – it came to the front of the house and I found it on one of the pillars holding up the porch roof.

Elm Sphinx moth
Elm Sphinx moth

This related Sphinx moth, below, has a surprise for would-be predators, when it opens its wings.

Blinded Sphinx moth - wings closed
Blinded Sphinx moth – wings closed
Blinded Sphinx Moth
Blinded Sphinx Moth

The next one gets its name from the scribbles, similar to some people’s handwriting.  I like its name.  The moth is very metallic-looking so is hard to photograph in the dark.  This one preferred the window glass to my sheet so there are many reflections.

Lettered Habrosyne - side view
Lettered Habrosyne – side view
Lettered Habrosyne moth
Lettered Habrosyne moth
Painted lichen moth
Painted lichen moth

Practising for Moth Week

Moth Week is coming up (July 19-27) so I thought I’d practise a bit.  I set up a flood light inside the window, then wait.  Since the window is a bit high from outside, I set up a pair of ladders with a thick board between them so I can move across the window.  An LED ring light provides light for photography as long as the moth is not too close to the flood the pictures are OK, but this first one was a bit too close.

Virginia Ctenucha resting
Virginia Ctenucha resting

Before it settled down, it was fluttering its wings which gave me a chance to shoot its brilliant blue abdomen, though I wasn’t able to get it in focus.  I’ll need more light outside.  That’s why I need to practise.

Virginia Ctenucha vibrating wings
Virginia Ctenucha vibrating wings

Since there are lots of sugar maples and sunset maples around the house, it’s no surprise to find Rosy Maple moths and there are enough leaves around to spare for these lovely moths.

Rosy Maple Moth
Rosy Maple Moth
Waved Sphinx Moth
Waved Sphinx Moth

I’m not sure whether the one below is exactly a Fall Webworm, but if not, closely related.

Fall Webworm
Fall Webworm

OK, not moths any more, but these formidable-looking caterpillars are from a prettier butterfly, the Mourning Cloak.  (Though I like the sound of the British name better:  Camberwell Beauty).  I haven’t seen the butterflies yet this year but I must have missed them.  A set of small willows at the end of the drive were full of these last weekend but as I was away this week I missed seeing them disappear.  There were none to be seen this weekend.  Apparently they drop off and overwinter in the leaf litter.  I’m surprised it is so soon as there were lots of leaves on the willows yet.

Mourning Cloak caterpillars
Mourning Cloak caterpillars

Even further away from moths, here’s a long exposure of the fireflies in the garden.

Fireflies
Fireflies

 

I was late for moth week

I’m late for moth week and then got rained out but here are a few intrepid creatures that ventured out shortly after a very heavy thunderstorm.

Moth week was two weeks ago but I wasn’t able to stay up late enough to do much photography, especially as many days were raining heavily.

I finally got some time last weekend but as soon as I got all the equipment set up, the heavens opened and we got a really heavy thunderstorm.  By the time it dried up enough for the bravest moths to venture forth, I was ready to go to sleep again.  And then it took me almost another week to post these pictures.  Better late than never, eh?

Plume moth
Plume moth

You can see the scale – this is a fairly standard mesh screen door: 7 squares to the cm.

The next three I haven’t identified yet – if I take the time I’ll never get this posted.  Let me know if you know what they are – I’ll try later if I get time and update the post.

Unknown moth 1
Unknown moth 1
Unknown moth 2
Unknown moth 2

I took a lot more but they didn’t turn out as well as these.  This other night-flier was much more clear than many of the moths.

 

Ichneumon wasp
Ichneumon wasp

It looks like a broad-winged dragonfly but I’m fairly sure it is a wasp. The “stinger” is for laying eggs –  most of the ichneumons can’t sting with their ovipositor though a few have some venom.

Final moth: this leaf miner is a moth caterpillar.  Imagine your entire world contained between the upper and lower surface of a leaf and then you transform and break into three dimensions.

Leaf miner
Leaf miner

It is quite difficult to photograph some moths. It is dark and they tend to scatter under lights so that doesn’t help.  To make it worse, some are very small so you need a lot of magnification, which tends to need more light that you don’t have.  I use a ring-light that attaches to the end of the lens.  And finally they are usually intended to be camouflaged which also makes for some dull pictures.

But now I’ve figured it out, I’ll have another go on a night with better weather.  Other nights we have had ten times the quantity and variety of moths but the need to work the next day means staying up late is a problem.

The way I did it was to hang a sheet outside the window and put a lot of lights inside to attract the moths.  Then my ring light was relatively feeble and didn’t disturb them much.  Then I set up a scaffold outside to shoot from.  Memo: move about the scaffold first, focus on the moth after; do not walk about while looking through the viewfinder.

Mothing equipment outside
Mothing equipment outside
Mothing equipment inside
Mothing equipment inside

For good luck, the orchid in the window is a moth orchid (Phalaenopsis).  The wooden square hanging from the ceiling on a chain has a couple of daylight floodlights screwed to it.

For some reason, Laurie suggested that all this meant that I was “bizarre”.  Thanks to Lynn for suggesting an alternative word: “unique”.  Although the fact that there is a moth week means that others do this too, so I think : “exceptional” is a good alternative.