Moth Surprises

93-1998 - 9699 - Condica sutor - The Cobbler2

It’s starting to get late in the season for moths. I’ll still see the odd one through mid-November, probably, but the numbers and diversity are rapidly decreasing. Most nights are single-digits Celsius and the warmer nights tend to be rainy, so I don’t put my light out often – the return isn’t usually worth the energy expended (mine or the electricity). That said, though, every now and then I’m happily surprised at what turns up.

Last week, for instance, I put my light out one warmish evening. I only got a dozen moths or so, but one of them was the above. I didn’t immediately recognize it – itself a sign that it’s probably something unusual, or at least a new species for me (still being a relative youngster in the mothing world, at just four and a half seasons’ experience, this still happens with some regularity). So I jarred it up and put it in the fridge to get a photo and ID the following day.

I had my suspicions about the ID – my gut instinct was a type of groundling. I opened my folder of guidebook jpgs in Windows Explorer and searched the images for ‘groundling’… but neither seemed right. So I tried a few other possibilities that were my second guesses, and when they proved unsuccessful I went back to the start of the noctuids and began scanning one by one. It turned out I’d been right – it was a type of groundling, but its common name didn’t contain the word groundling so it didn’t come up in my search. This is The Cobbler, Condica sutor, indeed a species I hadn’t seen yet. Happy with the ID, I labeled it and filed it away.

The following day I was working some more on the moth guide proofs and happened to notice the species account for The Cobbler. Its map, I noted, seemed to indicate that the species was Carolinian and south in distribution. It only snuck into Ontario in the southwest. My Ontario annotated checklist confirmed this. I’m quite some distance from southwestern Ontario… did I have the ID wrong?

Chris Schmidt at the Canadian National Collection in Ottawa (with whom I’d been corresponding about some stuff for the guide proofs) confirmed it for me: yes, it was The Cobbler. The species is migratory and prone to wandering in the fall, with records occasionally outside of its usual range. And while my house is quite a long way out of its range, it’s not impossible. Still, the Ontario checklist gives Guelph as the closest Ontario record; the guide to Québec moths has no records at all. The records from BugGuide are all mostly southern, with the exception of one in Illinois. So that’s pretty cool.

42-6570 - Aethalura intertexta - Four-Barred Gray2

Then a couple of nights ago I noticed a moth hanging on the screen of one of our ground floor windows, attracted to the light from the floor lamp there. It was clearly a geometer by the spread wings, but it wasn’t the shape of any of the geos that are familiarly flying right now, so I went around to check it out. This one was easier to ID, since it’s a common enough moth: it’s a Four-barred Gray, Aethalura intertexta.

What’s unusual about it is the timing. I haven’t seen a gray in weeks, going on months. Curious, I checked the flight period indicated in our guide: April through August, it said. BugGuide has images from April through July. All but one of my personal records are from April and May; that one exception is from August. Sooo…. mid-October? What was it thinking?

05-0367 - Acrolophus morus - Dark Grass-tubeworm

This one was unusual only in that I’d never seen the species before. This is a Dark Grass-Tubeworm, Acrolophus morus. It had been sitting on the outside of the back door at Dan’s mom’s house when we were there at Thanksgiving. We were preparing to head back home after an enjoyable weekend of visiting, so there was some activity as we went in and out of the house, but the moth didn’t seem to mind. Dan was the one to point it out to me. I had a feeling what it was but had to wait till I got home to confirm.

38-7217 - Thera juniperata - Juniper Carpet

And finally… this one is a Juniper Carpet, Thera juniperata. It was hanging out on the front door of Dan’s mom’s house (seems to be a mothy place there). It’s uncommon, but not unusual, seen annually in small numbers. I mostly include it because this was the first individual I’d seen this season; I’ve since seen one additional here at home, but that’s been all. And they’re nice-looking moths, don’t you think?


Author: Seabrooke

Author of Peterson Field Guide to Moths. #WriteOnCon Mastermind. Writer of action/thriller SF/F YA. Story junkie. Nature nut. Tea addict. Mother. Finding happiness in the little things. Twitter: @SeabrookeN / @SeabrookeLeckie

4 thoughts on “Moth Surprises”

  1. Seabrooke, I DO think they are nice-looking moths! I just love the moths posts, though all are just great. We are still quite “mothy” here in CT, too. In fact, the other day I spied a Pandorus Sphynx caterpillar (huge!) ambling through the meadow looking for a nice place to burrow in. But October! Really, I thought he was leaving it a bit late…..
    Warm Regards,
    Diane Tucker
    Naturalist, Hill-Stead Museum

  2. The fuzzy one really grabbed me! I don’t know, but it’s like he had a fur coat, to be honest it made them a lot less intimidated by these creatures! Thanks for sharing. I don’t get near enough nature so this is great to learn about!

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