Wednesday, July 14, 2010

tiger moth on the move

See this Nature ID post for more information. I'm starting to love my crappy photos.

Edwards' glassy-wing moth ~ 07/14/10 ~ at home

I found this moth in the stairwell early Monday morning. What struck me about this particular moth was that it was much bigger than most I usually see around here. Plus, it appeared as if the scales on its wings had been rubbed off. I figured it was on its last legs of life, so I uncharacteristically collected it, put it into a small rubbermaid, and then placed it in the fridge next to the mayo and salsa with hopes to test run taking a couple pictures through my dissecting scope later in the day... yeah, I know, for several months I've been threatening to pull out the ol' Wild M5 and Dolan-Jenner 181-1 Fiber-Lite that I inherited from Sonja. My excuse is the equipment is packed tightly in the closet and I'm generally lazy about pulling things out of storage.

In any case, I've been busy, so I didn't take this poor moth out of the fridge until Wednesday. evening. I tried to provide some water thinking it'd be thirsty after a couple days in the chiller. It looked like it had labial palps, but I couldn't find a proboscis. Oh well. It excreted small amounts of cloudy yellow liquid. I took over 70 crappy photos, because this moth warmed up quicker than I anticipated and was very active.

I hesitated to post considering I thought this moth would be difficult to identify with what I believed to be missing scales. WRONG. Due to its beautiful pink coloring and bulk, I correctly figured it was an arctiid (a recently reclassified group of moths that have always reminded me of L'Oréal eye shadow for their intense colors). I started my internet search for an ID thinking it must be related to the infamous Isabella tiger moth, better known as the woolly bear caterpillar. Amazingly, it wasn't too difficult to find a match. Edwards' glassy-wing moth wings are supposed to be mostly without scales. Powell states it is indeed unusual and one of CA's largest tiger moths. Another local PG resident also found a similar moth last week - note the abdomen is distinctly different than this one. The USGS link in the scientific name above (Pseudo- seems to be a new naming addition) states it flies in September. Maybe we're far enough south that we see them in July?

Uh, I should add... after taking its picture on black construction paper, I moved it outside to my "dormant" ficus for a natural pose - mainly because I worried if it warmed up enough to fly, I'd be chasing a moth around the house. This was another mistake. As I stepped inside to set my camera down, I turned around to see one of my friendly scrub-jays had quickly scooped up this moth. I shouted, "No!!!" Too late. The happy jay flew to a nearby oak tree and proceeded to enjoy its plump morsel.

ps 08/03/10 - I'm happy to report this blog post has been included in The Moth and Me #13 blog carnival, hosted at Today in NJ Birding History by Jennifer W. Hanson.