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Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) Ardeidae

May 6, 2012
Tacoma, WA
Robert Niese

GBHs are master predators. I’ve watched these creatures consume everything from fish and insects to frogs, snakes, and rodents the size of small dogs! They also have a terrifying, rattling, squawk that never fails to make me jump out of my skin whenever I stumble upon an unsuspecting individual while I’m creeping around docks at night (looking for cool nighttime marine invertebrates, of course!). They truly are dinosaurs.

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Thallophaga hyperborea Geometridae

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

This one was a really tough ID. We found this moth during our Slater Museum moth-lighting trip in Point Defiance for National Moth Week. We gave up attempting to identify it pretty early and had to call-in help from the experts at BugGuide. But even over at BugGuide, it was tentatively placed in three different genera before we settled on Thallophaga. Western Washington University is currently attempting to create a visual key to the Geometrids of the Pacific Northwest. As soon as it gets published, I’ll let you all know!

Arbutus menziesii “Madrone/Arbutus” Ericaceae

Point Defiance Park, Tacoma, WA
May 5, 2012
Robert Niese

This is one of my favorite PNW endemics. The bark can be collected and steeped in a tea to treat stomach aches, cramps, or sore throats. The berries can be chewed to suppress hunger or fermented into a cider. The wood of madrone is beautiful and dense making it excellent for kinds of projects. Madrone’s thick, evergreen leaves are resistant to water loss make the species well adapted for coastal and dry environments throughout the PNW.

Arbutus menziesii “Madrone/Arbutus” Ericaceae

Point Defiance Park, Tacoma, WA
May 5, 2012
Robert Niese

This is one of my favorite PNW endemics. These bark peels can be collected and steeped in a tea to treat stomach aches, cramps, or sore throats. The berries can be chewed to suppress hunger or fermented into a cider. The wood of madrone is beautiful and dense making it excellent for kinds of projects. Madrone’s thick, evergreen leaves are resistant to water loss make the species well adapted for coastal and dry environments throughout the PNW.

Acer macrophyllum “Bigleaf Maple” Aceraceae, with
Laburnum anagyroides “Golden Chain Tree” Fabaceae

Tacoma, WA
May 30, 2012
Robert Niese

The largest leaves on Bigleaf Maples easily reach 2 feet in length! These trees are keystone species in riparian zones throughout the wet lowlands of the PNW and are particularly important for sustaining healthy moss populations. In the background, you can see the bright yellow flowers of the introduced Golden Chain Tree. These papilionaceous flowers (in the pea family) are favored by bumble bees which are large enough to wriggle their way into the corolla.

Anania hortulata “Small Magpie” Crambidae

Tacoma, WA
July 8, 2013
Robert Niese

The Small Magpie is an adorable moth that was accidentally introduced from Europe. Its larvae feed on Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) and many members of the mint family.

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!

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!

Lasioglossum (Subgenus Dialictus) “Sweat Bee” Halictidae
on Achillea millefolium “Yarrow” Asteraceae

Tacoma, WA
July 6, 2013
Robert Niese

These bees are notoriously difficult to identify. There are more than 290 species in the US and Canada and approximately 1700 species worldwide. Most Sweat Bees (family Halictidae) in our area fall into this mega-Genus. Look for them anywhere and anytime there are flowers blooming. You’re bound to see at least a half dozen species of Halictids on any given summer day!