Alucita montana “Montana Six-plumed Moth” Alucitidae

Missoula, MT
November 20, 2013
Robert Niese

This is a member of a rather large group of moths that fly using rackets, not paddles. The “plumes” of the plume moths are remarkably similar to feathers on a bird. Learn more about how these cool organisms are capable of flying here.

Happy National Moth Week!

Alucita montana “Montana Six-plumed Moth” Alucitidae

Missoula, MT
November 20, 2013
Robert Niese

This is a member of a rather large group of moths that fly using rackets, not paddles. The “plumes” of the plume moths are remarkably similar to feathers on a bird. Learn more about how these cool organisms are capable of flying here.

Happy National Moth Week!

Archiearis infans “The Infant” Geometridae

Salmon-Challis National Forest, ID
March 20, 2015
Robert Niese

When I first saw this flashy, day-flying moth, I immediately assumed it was a skipper butterfly! Took me a while to realize it was actually The Infant, an inchworm moth (Geometridae). This species is called “The Infant” because it is one of the very first moths to emerge from hibernation in the spring. This individual was fluttering around some moist gravel, sipping up water and minerals in the sunshine. Apparently, Song Sparrows have been observed hunting Infants in muddy areas like this, because it is one of the only times the moth is still enough to be captured. The Infant is found throughout the west in areas with birch and alder, and is the only member of this genus in North America.

Happy National Moth Week!

Orgyia antiqua “Rusty Tussock Moth” caterpillar Lymantriidae (now Erebidae)

Tacoma, WA
July 12, 2013
Robert Niese

This species is widely dispersed throughout both hardwood and coniferous forests in North America. Here in the Pacific Northwest, it tends to be restricted to moist, low elevation forests west of the Cascades. The caterpillars of this species are generalists and can eat both conifers and flowering plants.
Fun fact: female tussock moths are flightless and lay their eggs en masse on their cocoon. In order to disperse into the wide world beyond the cocoon they’re born on, freshly-hatched larvae will balloon away on the wind.

Happy National Moth Week!

Scoparia basalis “Many-spotted Scoparia” Crambidae

Point Defiance Park, Tacoma, WA
July 22, 2013
Robert Niese

Our night of mothlighting in Point Defiance Park was chock-full of these adorable little (1cm!) Crambids. Definitely our most abundant moth of the evening! Caterpillars of Scoparia moths are poorly described, but some scientists think they might live in and feed on mosses before reaching adulthood. This might make sense considering that the forests in Point Defiance Park are dripping with mosses!

Happy National Moth Week!

Agapeta zoegana “Sulphur Knapweed Moth” Tortricidae

August 14, 2014
Missoula, MT
Robert Niese

These diminutive moths (10mm in length) are obligate parasites of our invasive knapweed (Centaurea maculosa) and were introduced in 1984 as a potential biological control agent.

Happy National Moth Week!

Choristoneura rosaceana “Oblique-banded Tortrix Leafroller” Tortricidae

Point Defiance Park, Tacoma, WA
July 22, 2013
Robert Niese

The larva of these inconspicuous moths are significant pests on apples (and many other rosaceous plants) where they voraciously consume both fruits and leaves. Larval leafrollers, as their name suggests, roll-up the leaves of their host plants and hide inside the rolled-up tube for protection from parasites and predators. Learn more about this species at the Colorado State University’s interactive webpage on Tortricids of Agricultural Importance.

Happy National Moth Week!

Gnophaela vermiculata “Police-car Moth” Arctiidae (now Erebidae)

Great Burn, Lolo National Forest, MT
July 10, 2015
Robert Niese

The Police-car Moth had a really big year this summer. During our weekend backpacking trip, we must have seen 30 or 40 individuals! These day-flying moths are found in the Northwest, south to Nevada and New Mexico. They tend to be found at mid- to high-elevations in the middle of summer when meadow plants are in full bloom. The adults feed on nectar and copulate for their month-long lives before laying their eggs on any number of Boraginaceae plants (bluebells, houndstongue, Lithospermum, etc.). The larvae will then hatch and eat like crazy until they hibernate as caterpillars, waiting for snows to melt. These two individuals were just hanging out and happily permitted me to photograph their – ahem – intimate moment.

Happy National Moth Week!

Gnophaela vermiculata “Police-car Moth” Arctiidae (now Erebidae)

Great Burn, Lolo National Forest, MT
July 10, 2015
Robert Niese

The Police-car Moth had a really big year this summer. During our weekend backpacking trip, we must have seen 30 or 40 individuals! These day-flying moths are found in the Northwest, south to Nevada and New Mexico. They tend to be found at mid- to high-elevations in the middle of summer when meadow plants are in full bloom. The adults feed on nectar and copulate for their month-long lives before laying their eggs on any number of Boraginaceae plants (bluebells, houndstongue, Lithospermum, etc.). The larvae will then hatch and eat like crazy until they hibernate as caterpillars, waiting for snows to melt. This individual is a male, just about to take flight in search of an unmated female.

Happy National Moth Week!