A few days ago, the BugLady was mulling over which insect she was going to feature in the next BOTW. She headed out the door to hike to the mailbox, and there, on the inside of the storm door, trapped between it and the back door, sat this beautiful Small magpie moth.
Let’s celebrate the (almost bugless) Season with a dozen bugs that were photographed this year. Down through the centuries, various regional versions of the classic Christmas carol have included hares a-running, ducks quacking, badgers baiting, bulls a-roaring, biting cows, bears a-beating, cocks a-crowing, asses racing, starlings, plovers, goldspinks (goldfinches), sides of meat, ponies, deer, stalks of corn, cheese, windmills, and an Arabian Baboon. Never any bugs, though, so it’s up to us.
The BugLady photographed these beautiful caterpillars on a cold and blustery day at the start of October, a day when nearby New England asters were topped by sluggish bumblebees (bumblebees are sometimes called, only half-jokingly, a “warm-blooded bees”). The caterpillars weren’t too active, either. They’re called Zebra Caterpillars (of course!),
Once again, the BugLady fell for an insect’s disguise. It sure looked like a sluggish yellowjacket sitting on a raspberry leaf, and it wasn’t until she took a picture of it that she noticed all of its hairs/scales. The Raspberry crown borer/Blackberry clearwing borer is a moth in the Clear-winged moth family Sesiidae.
It’s always a treat to find one of these jewel-like insects nectaring, usually on goldenrod. They are day-flying moths, though their tendency to sit with wings wrapped around their bodies makes them look like beetles, and their bright colors make them wasp-like in flight. Ailanthus webworm moths (Atteva aurea) (“aurea” means “golden”) are in the family Attevidae, the tropical ermine moths. And tropical they are, except for the AWM (Ailanthus webworm moth, not “angry white men”), which has shed some of its southern proclivities.
Here (the BugLady looked up the collective noun for moths) is a whisper of moths. Mostly porch moths; mostly under-biographized; mostly, to borrow a term from birders, “LBJs” – Little Brown Jobs. Subjects include White Spring Moths, Bruce Spanworms, and Bronzy Macrochilos.
The BugLady’s favorite insect is the Tiger Swallowtail (Mom likes me best), but in the crowded field for second place, the Luna Moth is pretty close to the top. Luna moths (Actias luna) are in the Giant Silkworm/Royal Moth family Saturnidae (of previous BOTW fame), whose family members have ringed eyespots reminiscent of Saturn.
The poet Muriel Rukeyser once wrote, “The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” The BugLady sees lots of tableaux unfolding as she ambles across the landscape. Because she was taught, at an impressionable age, by a professor who said “Don’t just tell them what it is, tell them ‘what about it,’” she tries to read the stories and understand the “what-about-its”
The BugLady admits that she is ambivalent about moths. So many of them are small and gray/tan and the BugLady, with apologies, hasn’t developed the patience to hunker down and learn them. On the other hand, there are striking moths like the Haploas. The genus name Haploa used to be Callimorpha, which means “beautiful form.” The Haploas are sometimes called Crusader moths, because of their shield-like wing shape and markings.
Another week, another Maple Spanworm. This one, the Large Maple Spanworm (Prochoerodes lineola) is also in the family Geometridae. The BugLady didn’t have to play her usual game of Identification Roulette because, of the seven New World species in this primarily tropical genus, this is the only one that occurs in eastern North America.