It’s National Moth Week

It’s National Moth Week! Right now (July 23rd – 31st)! Moths are diverse, successful, showy, drab, cryptic, abundant, huge (a few have wingspreads close to 12”), micro, tasty, toxic objects of our admiration, confusion, superstition, and reverence.

Small, Blue Butterflies (Family Lycaenidae)

Three small, blue “look-alike” butterflies—the Spring Azure and the Summer Azure, often referred to as the Spring Spring Azure and the Summer Spring Azure, and the Eastern Tailed Blue. The Spring Azures have long been considered to be one large and gloriously diverse species made up of several sub-species. Now they’re thought by many to be a number of full species. Ten or eleven species of Blues/Azures occur in Wisconsin.

Cherish the (Butterfly) Ladies (Family Nymphalidae)

The American Lady a year-round resident of the southern U.S. (south into South America and even the Galapagos), its summer wanderings bring it here to God’s country. Like the Painted Lady, it likes sunny, open spaces, and like the Painted Lady, it is an early migrant from the south that re-establishes populations in the North and East annually (it was recorded in Wisconsin in the first week of May this year). Unlike the Painted Lady, its caterpillars are tied to a smaller list of host plants, including the everlastings and pussytoes, and a few other species.

Azalea Sphinx (Family Sphingidae)

Sphinx moth caterpillars are frequently associated with one, or a small group of host plants, for which they are often named (tobacco and tomato hornworms, big poplar, wild cherry, huckleberry, catalpa sphinx, etc.). Some are pests of agricultural or horticultural plantings, and they may have different names than their adults (when it grows up, a tomato hornworm becomes a Five-lined sphinx).

Twelve Bugs of Christmas

The fourth Annual chorus of “The Twelve Bugs of Christmas,” the BugLady offers a Bakers’ Dozen of Bug Portraits that were taken this year but are unlikely to appear in future BOTWs because their stories have been told in past BOTWs (hence, the links, for BugFans who want to know “The Rest of the Story”).

Headless Moths II – Yellow Necked Datana Moths (Family Notodontidae)

There are 13 species of Datana moths in North America; some are associated with specific host plants like nut trees, sumacs, or azaleas, but the Yellow Necked Datana Moth is more of a generalist feeder. Its menu includes basswood, apple, oak, birch, willow, elm, blueberry, and others.

Lappet Moth (Family Lasiocampidae)

Lappet Moth caterpillars are generalist feeders, found on members of the willow/poplar, rose, ash, oak, birch, and buckthorn families. Their Tent caterpillar kin can be destructive on a variety of hardwoods, but there are no red flags about Lappet Moth caterpillars from any of the Extension, forestry or exterminator sites.

Woolly Bears (Family Erebidae)

The Woolly Bear du jour is the ultra-familiar rust-and-black-banded caterpillar of the Isabella Tiger Moth (Pyrrharctia isabella). The caterpillar has its own names—the generic Woolly Bear, the Black-ended Bear, and the Banded Woolly Bear.

Prominent Caterpillars (Family Notodontidae)

The Prominents are a bunch of long-winged, hairy, often-drab, mostly-tropical moths. Of the 3,800 species in the family, 138 are found in North America (half of them in Eastern forests). Prominents generally lay their eggs on the undersides of leaves, where the larvae may initially feed gregariously. Caterpillar menus are generally limited to one or just a few host plants per species.

State of the Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) feed on a variety of flowers but lay their eggs only on plants in the milkweed family. The bright, aposematic (warning) colors of both the butterfly and its caterpillar alert potential predators to back off (poisonous milkweed sap renders the caterpillar toxic, and it carries its toxicity into adulthood).