Sunday, July 27, 2014

Mothing at Cedar Ridge Preserve

Synchlora frondaria, the Southern Emerald Moth
If you are a lazy naturalist, mothing is a beautiful thing. You spread a drop cloth, turn on a light, and wait for the critters to come to you. You almost never come up empty. On Friday, the Audubon's Cedar Ridge Preserve (Dallas, TX) hosted a "Mothing" in honor of National Moth Week.

I spent the entire week studying up in anticipation. I'd never been mothing before. While I know a fair bit about native bees and a little about butterflies, I was basically ignorant on moth matters. The most useful book I found was "Peterson's Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America" (2012). Despite not being regionally appropriate, the pictures are fantastic and this book has a good shot of getting you to genus. From there, internet resources like and can get you to species. I noted that many of the seasoned moth-ers brought their own copies to the event.

Moth ID can be a little daunting- there are approximately ten times as many species of moths as there are butterflies (160,000 vs 17,500). However, unlike native bees, you don't typically need a scope to confirm species. I was able to make some reasonable guesses from my photographs alone.

Petrophila bifascialis, aka the 'golden spangle-fanny'

One of my favorite moths was what we jokingly called the "golden spangle-fanny" aka, Petrophila bifascialis. They are quite ornate, and look like they have been dotted with gold leaf. They are also tiny. Three of them could land on a nickel without touching wingtips. Their second set of antennae are actually labial palps, used to identify food. Interestingly, these moths have aquatic larvae. Their young eat algae.

My other favorites were the "Emeralds" in the Geometrid family. As the name suggests, they were a beautiful green. Only the males have the lovely double-combed ('bi-pectinate') antennae. They use their extra fringe to sniff out female pheromones. We saw two different species of emerald, the wavy-lined (Synchlora aerata) and the southern (Synchlora frondaria).  The southern has more jagged white bands crossing the fore- and hind-wings, and the wavy-lined is a little bigger. Both are smaller than a dime.
Synchlora aerata, the wavy-lined emerald (possibly)
Synchlora frondaria, southern emerald moth

I've included more pictures, IDs, and a mystery moth after the jump. 

Anavitrinella pampinaria, Common Gray
Panopoda carneicosta, brown panopoda
Lastly, here are two pictures of a delightfully fuzzy (though, for a moth, not remarkably so) individual who visited us that I have yet to ID. If you think you've found a match, then by all means share with the rest of us.

Mystery moth, 3/4 view

Mystery moth in profile
EDIT: forgot a moth! This one I'm not sure on the species, but it's pretty nevertheless.

Possibly Palpita freemanalis?


  1. Great photos of some very tiny creatures. Sounds like a fun event.

    1. Thank you! I enjoyed it so much I stayed until they turned the lamps off and kicked me out. :)

  2. Is there beer? Then it would be like surf casting. :)

    Beautiful pics.