Biothon moths

Hunting for insects

A self-portrait (posed, of course) of me in "action" for the biothon, equipped with my sweep net and my favourite field guide.

Last weekend was the first annual Frontenac Biothon, a bio-blitz fundraiser event for Frontenac Bird Studies, which Dan runs. We had a team of five people – Dan and myself, and three friends of ours from the Toronto area – out to Frontenac Provincial Park for our 24-hour count. We booked a couple of campsites at the north end of the park, which were canoe-access only, and operated as our “home-base” for the biothon. While we fell just short of our target of 500 species (our final tally was 441), I think everyone had a great weekend (I sure did), and we learned lots that will help make future editions even more successful. If you’re interested in reading a bit more about the biothon as a whole you should check out the summary Dan did at the Frontenac Birds blog.

Examining a blacklit moth sheet

Me checking out the blacklit sheet (photo by Julia Marko Dunn, one of our biothoners)

As the member of the team with the most experience with invertebrates, I was heading up the six-legged component of the bio-blitz. I spent the afternoons trying to wrangle up a good selection of bugs, and while I could probably have done a bit better if I’d been in more open/meadow habitat than in the forest area where I was, I still got a reasonably decent list. My biggest contribution, however, was through my moth light. I brought my blacklight and sheet, and we lugged in one of those self-contained emergency batteries to power it for a few hours (no mean feat as those things weigh several pounds). We got about 60 species of moths, give or take a few, which I was fairly satisfied with considering we only ran the light for a couple of hours and just had the low-wattage blacklight, not my mercury-vapour.

Since we didn’t have a cooler to place them in I didn’t bother saving anything till the morning. The shots aren’t great, as a result, but they were just for sharing here anyway.

Imperial Moth

Imperial Moth. This was the largest moth species that we had come to the sheet, and the only silkmoth species. I think by the time we shut the light off there were three or four of them. Quite impressive, but they kept fluttering up and down the sheet and disturbing the other stuff that’d settled there. The bug beside this one is a caddisfly.

Harris's Three-spot

Harris’s Three-spot. This was my favourite of the evening, and its eye-catching pattern meant it also appealed to the other non-moth’ers in our group. I’ve only caught this species there at the park – besides at the biothon, I got a couple of individuals at our lake house our first summer there.

Brown Scoopwing

Brown Scoopwing. These guys are always neat to see come in, they have such a unique shape. There’s also a Gray Scoopwing in our area, but I believe those are the only two species. Hard to mistake it for anything else.

7906 - Datana contracta - Contracted Datana

There were two species of Datana that came in, at least that I could identify as separate species: Contracted Datana, above, and Walnut Caterpillar Moth, below. We have six species of Datana included in our field guide to moths, and they all look very similar to each other. Another caddisfly joining the moth in the photo below.

7907 - Datana integerrima - Walnut Caterpillar Moth

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5 responses to “Biothon moths

  1. That sounds like a good haul for one night. I just saw an Imperial Moth last week. They’re very impressive moths up close. I’d love to see a Harris Three-spot in person.

  2. I am fascinated at what you could find in such a short time — the Harris three spot was lovely. Thanks for the beautiful shots of what you found — barbara

  3. I thought you might like the black light pic Seabrooke! I like the way it turned out.

    The mothing was fascinating!

  4. Wonderfully cryptic and delicate moths…another world of design!

  5. Thank you for the “product placement,” Seabrooke:-) Gorgeous women naturalists are always helpful advertisers! Keep up your own great work, and don’t think I won’t be heavily promoting your moth guide when it comes off the presses.

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