A quick sketch, because National Moth Week isn’t quite over

2013_bison summer sketches (36)_Lepidoptera_moths vs. butterflies
Moths to the left, butterflies on the right

It’s National Moth Week!

Since moths outnumber butterflies 11-to-1 in North America, there’s lots to see, get excited about, and…sketch!

There’s something particularly fun about sketching moths that are visible/active in daylight – moths like the clearwing sphinx moth (also known as the hummingbird moth). And, even the “millers” that flutter around houses so distractingly can make great subjects.

One of the most extraordinary moth encounters I’ve ever had was actually a pair of interactions in quick succession with polyphemus moths. I watched two mate…for hours (I passed by them several times over the course of one day). And then, I watched a male expire right in front of me, while I was sketching him.

Those moths, and the startlingly blue-and-orange one I spotted that same summer, gave me a new appreciation for our most numerous Lepidoptera. That’s led to an on-going interest, and more than one article. Right now, I’m re-working an old article about moths into something more rigorous, lengthier, and focused on western moths.

Here are a couple of my favorite tidbits unearthed during a search through scientific literature:

  • An isolated population of silk moths in Montana’s Bitterroot Mountains, reported in 1937, was one of the world’s first recognized cases of hybridization. At that time, speciation was a new line of research, and the flux of species epitomized by these hybrids – then a total novelty – has become a venerable field. (source)
  • During the summer time, grizzly bears can consume millions of army cutworm moths (those moths we know as “millers”). Although reputedly buttery in flavor, at half-a-calorie each, these moths are far more than a snack. Research indicates these moths’ seasonal migration from the Great Plains to mountainous areas is a key aspect of regional griz diets. (sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

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