Curved-Toothed Geometer, Large Maple Spanworm, and Yellow Slant-Line moths are featured in this week Bug of the Week. The three members are in the Family Geometridae, with with 35,000 species worldwide (1,400-plus in North America).
Time to celebrate three more unsung bugs—bugs about whom little is written and whose internet presence is mostly limited to species/collection/biodiversity lists, and to whom we will give their 15 minutes of fame. Remember—there are more than 100,000 species of insects on this continent north of the Rio Grande, many that are difficult to distinguish from their close relatives and that are lacking both common names and biographies.
Wisconsin has two common species of dark swallowtails—the Black Swallowtail and the dark morph female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail—and we host two dark species that are uncommon strays, the Pipevine and the Spicebush Swallowtail. The latter two are drifters whose caterpillar food plants are not native to Wisconsin. The natural habitats for this lovely wanderer include fields, parks, gardens, dappled woods, and edges from Central America through the southern U.S.
Three moths, Corn Earworms, Tomato Hornworm and the Squash-Borer, applaud our gardening efforts (alas, the chief contenders for the BugLady’s patio tomatoes are chipmunks, not bugs). Those who don’t want to share can find a lot of information about pest control on-line and at your local Agricultural Extension office.
Beautiful caterpillars that grow up to be admirable-looking adults (none of which the BugLady has seen, unless she has a picture of the Lithacodia somewhere in her X-Files). All three of these species have similar ranges east of the Rockies, and the adults of all three can be seen in mid-summer through fall.
Cecropia, Promethea, Polyphemus and Luna moths are members of the Giant Silk Moth family, Saturnidae, and some are giants indeed, with wingspreads measuring 4” to 6”. Northern species tend to have a single brood per year, while their Southern brethren may have two or three.
The order Lepidoptera (“scaled wings”) is a large one, with almost 175,000 species globally. Overall, around 80% of Lepidopterans are moths; there are 20,000-plus species of Lepidoptera in North America, and only about 700 of those are butterflies.
“Bugs without Bios” are critters that, while undoubtedly worthy, are barely on the radar in either on-line or print references. But, they contribute to their communities and have their own places in the Web of Life. What these three have in common is their (admittedly very limited) work as biological control agents.
Moths, often inscrutable to the BugLady, are contributing members of the ecosystems they occupy. Caterpillars impact their food plants in sometimes devastating ways; adults are often listed as flower pollinators; and both stages provide protein for their predators.
As the Bug Season winds down, the BugLady would like to celebrate summer by sharing a baker’s dozen of the pictures she’s taken in the past few months.