I’ve been going through my photos of moths from last summer and fall while the snow here slowly melts, comes back again, and then melts some more. As I go through my files of moth photos I am beginning to realize that there may be several hundred moth species in my township. At last count (March 30) I have 147 identified to species and another 175 unidentified species for a total of 322 species. That is a little bit over my original estimate of 300 species in my township. I am going to have to revise that number upwards a bit. The current estimate of moth species in the state of Minnesota where I live is placed at 1,503 so there may be another 300 or more species on top of what I have found.
Digital photos of the unidentified moths are kept in folders named Crambids (23 subfolders, some shown above), Micro-moths (35 subfolders, some shown above), Darts and Prominents (50 subfolders), Tussock Moths (6 subfolders), and many as just “Moth” (55 subfolders) for those in the Geometridae or moths I can’t place in any group. I think I may break that one up into “Geometrids” and “Others”.
There are still many more photos to sort through and the next group to be separated are the Plume Moths (Pterophoridae). This is an interesting group of moths that look like some sort of fixed-wing aircraft. There are three Plume Moths species subfolders (see below) but more might be added later. Moth caterpillars and cocoons also have their own folder called “Unknown Caterpillars” with just three species left until I find more this summer.
Now that I have some of the moths separated and each in its own folder I can begin tackling identification in a more systematic way. Of course no single field guide or website will have all the species possibly present in a geographic region but by getting these photo specimens identified to family or better yet to genus I can narrow my search efforts and maybe hit upon the answer. Right now I am working on the Crambidae or Crambid Moths commonly known as Grass Veneers and Snout Moths. A few days ago the unidentified Crambid files had 29 unknowns. Now it is down to 23 unknowns after confirming three species (Crambus bidens, C. agitatellus, and Chrysoteuchia topiarius) and tentatively identifying three more (Crambus pascuella, C. perlella, and Microcrambus elegans). It is progress.
More progress below with two moth larvae tentatively identified (Acronicta impressa, Melanchra assimilis) and three with more confidence (Trichordestra legitima, Erannis tiliaria, Pyrrhia experimens). To that I should add that I have found two errors in my checklist but these are now corrected. One was in the right genus (Eucosma) but wrong species (E. dorsisgnatana not E. similiana both very similar) and the other was a species in a look-alike genus (Macrochilo litophora not Zanclognatha pedipilalis).
Warm weather is still in the future it seems but when it does get here and the ice and snow start to melt I will be out in the woods and fields looking for moths and other things that are waking up after a long and sometimes cold winter.