Monday, September 07, 2009

Moth Night: Zales

Last Wednesday I went with Patrick to Moth Night at East Brunswick's Butterfly Park. The event was well attended, with a core set of moth enthusiasts joined by families with children. The arrangement was fairly simple. Near the edge of the meadow and woods, the organizers had set up a white sheet with a halogen bulb shining on one side. Moths attracted to the light would land on the sheet, where they would be easy to see and photograph. A trail would through the woods, and trees on either side of the trail were painted with an addicting mix of beer, bananas, rum, and other sugary substances.

Moths were already flying at dusk when Patrick and I arrived, and more gathered at the lamp as the evening grew darker. Participants had the option of staying at the sheet or walking the trail. The first group to walk the trail was huge; the second one was much smaller as most of the families left as soon as the first one was done. The two types of lures attracted different sets of species, so it was best to check both at least once to get the most out of the event. Patrick and I walked the trail at least twice and spent plenty of time at the sheet. In the course of the evening, I saw several moth types I had not seen (or at least identified) previously.

Below are three pictures of zales. All three seem to be the same species, Lunate Zale. One of the organizers mentioned it as a possibility, and after reviewing what is most likely to be flying in early September, I think it is the best fit.

One thing that I found interesting was how different the moths' wing patterns appear under different lighting conditions. In the photo above, the colors appear very muted. With different lighting (and different exposure settings on my camera), the dark colors appear much darker and parts of the moth's wing appear metallic green.

One benefit of using a sugary substance as a lure was that we got to watch the zale stick out its probiscis.

I am very new to moths, so if you have any other ideas about their identification, please leave a comment. There will be underwings and other moths in a future post.

Oops! I thought I had scheduled this to publish this morning, but I guess I accidentally clicked "save now" instead of "publish post" when I scheduled it.

Click through for Moth Night Part 2: Other Moths.