Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Thanks to all of you for making this blog such a success, it just passed 30,000 page views!  When I started it three years ago, there were barely 10 hits a week, and now there are usually 100 per day!
Wishing everyone a safe and happy Christmas and New Year.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Species Profile: Luna Moth

Luna Moth (Actias luna)
Description
Wingspan: 2 7/8 to 4 1/8 inches
Male: bluish-green with yellow highlights, lavender to maroon wing edges and legs, and a single eyespot on each wing.
Female: same, but with narrower (less feathery) antennae.
Egg: brown.
Larva: bright green with greenish yellow lateral stripe.
Pupa: dark brown.  Outer cocoon is honey-brown and often wrapped with a leaf.
Similar Species
None in the USA.  
Habitat & Biology
Habitat: deciduous hardwood forests.
Overwintering stage: pupa.
Larval host: uses a variety of deciduous trees, including White Birch (Betula papyrifera), Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), walnuts (Juglans spp.), and hickories (Carya spp.).
Adult food source: adults do not have developed mouth parts and cannot feed.  They live for approximately one week while searching for mates and laying eggs.
Luna moth emerging from its cocoon
Female Luna Moth expanding her wings
Female Luna Moth expanding her wings
Female Luna Moth
Male Luna Moth (note the wider antennae)
Male Luna Moth

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Insect Collection Census

Recently I've been working more in my insect collection, sorting and labeling new specimens and ordering more drawers and cabinets so I can properly organize everything.  I decided it was time to re-count everything, as the last time I did that was at least 7 or 8 years ago.
About 12 or 14 years ago I was given a large old cabinet full of mostly butterflies and moths, with a few other insects, by a friend and mentor who was retiring and moving out of town.  Most of the specimens had been collected by him and his grandmother, and many were from other parts of the world, outside of the US.  The collection had been moved several times and had not been regularly cared for, so many of the specimens were missing some or all of their labels.  It was a huge project to identify the specimens, and I'm still working on some of them, but it has been a great way to learn about world-wide butterflies.  This core collection is made up of about 1,800 specimens, and when I first counted them and the rest of my collection, the specimens I had personally collected came to just over 200.
My latest census came to a total of 3,820 specimens!  This includes both personally-collected and gifted specimens.  Here is the breakdown:
Mounted (prepared specimens on pins) Lepidoptera = 2,530
Mounted other insects (mostly beetles) = 652
Papered (still in envelopes, not mounted) Lepidoptera = 632
Papered other insects = 6
Included in those totals are 317 micro-moths, given to me with the old collection, and I have yet to ID them.  These are the very tiny, mostly brown moths that come to lights at night or fly during the day and are rarely noticed by most people.