I’ve been pretty busy with work these last several weeks but on one of my free days I was out walking my dog and saw this little black wasp on a milkweed leaf. I managed to get a few photos of it with my cell phone before it flew away. Judging from its long ovipositor this is a species of ichneumon wasp although at this point I do not know much more than that. When I looked closely at the photo I noticed there was another little animal with the wasp that was clinging to it by tiny pincers (circled in red in the lower photo). It is a type of arachnid a group of arthropods that includes spiders and scorpions. This tiny arachnid is commonly called a pseudoscorpion. Pseudoscorpions are tiny and when they are not hitching rides on insects they are searching leaf litter for prey such as ants and mites. Although pseudoscorpions do not sting they do have poison glands in their pincers which they use to subdue prey. They are harmless to larger animals. My best guess to the identity of this pseudoscorpion is that it is probably in the superfamily Cheliferoidea. Without an actual specimen that I could spend some time examining that is about as far as I can get.


Night of the Micros


For some reason micro-moths (not a proper taxonomic group but a group of convenience) were well represented under my porch light the past two nights. Getting a clear picture of these 2 to 4 mm long moths is no easy task with a cellphone and some are just tantalizing blurs. Still, I recorded fourteen species of micro-moths which, with the exception of Diamondback Moth (Plutella xylostella, Family Plutellidae), a Leaf Blotch Miner Moth (Caloptilia stigmatella, Family Gracillariidae), and Many-plume Moth (Alucita montana, Family Alucitidae), and two species of Agonopterix (Agonopterix pulvipennella and Agonopterix atrodorsella, Family Depressariidae), are unidentified. There are two micro-moths, Mompha (Family Momphidae) and Parornix (Family Gracillariidae), identified to genus only because microscopic features are necessary for accurate determination.

As for larger moths (macro-moths) six species were seen. They are Sigmoid Prominent (Clostera albosigma, Family Notodontidae), Powdered Bigwing (Lobophora nivigerata, Family Geometridae), Small engrailed (Ectropis crepuscularia, Family Geometridae), Bicolored Woodgrain (Morrisonia evicta, Family Noctuidae), Norman’s Quaker Moth (Crocigrapha normani, Family Noctuidae), and Large Ruby Tiger Moth (Phragmatobia assimilans, Family Erebidae).

Morrisonia evicta, Crocigrapha normani, Ectropis crepuscularia, Phragmatobia assimilans, and Agonopterix atrodorsella are new records as are Mompha (M. luciferella?) and Parornix (P. obliterella?), neither of which can be properly identified to species by visual inspection of gross morphology alone, thus bringing the moth checklist up to 204 species.



Some brief notes on the new macro-moths and the micro-moth Agonopterix atrodorsella

Morrisonia evicta
Superfamily Noctuoidea (Owlet Moths and kin)
Family Noctuidae (Owlet Moths)
Subfamily Noctuinae (Cutworm or Dart Moths)
Tribe Orthosiini

Larval host plants: A large variety of woody plants including blueberry (Vaccinium), cherry (Prunus), chokeberry (Aronia), dogwood (Cornus), and hazel (Corylus).
Range: Northeastern US to Georgia and North Carolina and southern Canada. Scattered reports from Montana, Florida, and Texas.


Crocigrapha normani
Superfamily Noctuoidea (Owlet Moths and kin)
Family Noctuidae (Owlet Moths)
Subfamily Noctuinae (Cutworm or Dart Moths)
Tribe Orthosiini

Larval Host plants: ash (Fraxinus), aspen (Populus), birch (Betula), cherry and plum (Prunus), oak (Quercus), mountain ash (Sorbus), elm (Ulmus), and willow (Salix).
Range: Northeastern US to Georgia and South Carolina and in southern Canada.


Phragmatobia assimilans
Superfamily Noctuoidea (Owlet Moths and kin)
Family Erebidae
Subfamily Arctiinae (Tiger and Lichen Moths)
Tribe Arctiini (Tiger Moths)
Subtribe Spilosomina

Larval Host plants: balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera), raspberry (Rubus), and paper birch (Betula papyrifera).
Range: Northeastern US to Georgia and South Carolina and in southern Canada.


Ectropis crepuscularia
Superfamily Geometroidea (Geometrid and Swallowtail Moths)
Family Geometridae (Geometrid Moths)
Subfamily Ennominae
Tribe Boarmiini

Larval Host plants: balsam fir (Abies balsamea), hemlock (Tsuga canadense), larch (Larix), spruce (Picea), apple (Malus), alder (Alnus) and many other tree and shrub species.
Range: Over much of North America and in Eurasia.

Agonopterix atrodorsella
Superfamily Gelechioidea (Twirler Moths and kin)
Family Depressariidae
Subfamily Depressariinae

Larval Host plants: joe-pye weed (Eupatorium), beggars ticks (Coreopsis and Bidens).
Range: New England, Great Lakes Region, Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, and few locations in Kentucky, Maryland, and North Carolina.


Agonopterix atrodorsella



Beadle, D. and Leckie, S. (2012). Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Boston. 640 pages.

Species accounts at Bug Guide, BAMONA, HOSTS, and Moth Photographers Group.

A Summer of Mothing, Part 1


So I’m wondering how to begin this new blog and have decided to write a little bit about my mothing adventure last summer. It all began one morning in June when my Canon Rebel camera broke and I was left with just my Samsung cell phone and its camera. Up until that point I had not used the cell phone camera much and what I had taken with it was not that good. Now, with my favorite camera broken and short on funds for repairs or a replacement I had to learn to use the cell phone. I decided to photograph the moths that came to the porch light at night to learn more about the cell phone camera.

A few nights a week as sunset approached I would turn on the porch light. When it got dark I would carefully open the door and look around the light to see what had flown in. I was seldom disappointed. Warm humid nights were the best for moths. As the weeks went on it became apparent that there was a progression of moth species. Different moths have different flight times and very few will be seen all summer. And moths aren’t the only things attracted to the lights. Beetles, harvestmen, thrips, caddisflies, midges, and leaf hoppers all came to the light. I’m sure the harvestmen were hunting for small insects although they seem willing to eat anything. One was tasting a mix of molasses and overripe fruit I put out to attract moths.


Arctia cajas_014312A
Arctia caja, seen one night (August 1) and not again. It is one of the tiger moths.


I keep a list of the various plants and animals on my property adding to it whenever I find a new species. When I began my mothing project I had documented about 30 species or about two species a year. When the summer ended I had added another 102 moth species and many more unidentified but saved as photos. During my moth adventure last summer I found three sources extremely helpful for identifying moths. The first one is the Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America by David Beadle and Seabrooke Leckie. The other two are the BugGuide website and the Moth Photographers Group website. And now I have found another source to consult: Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA).