Thursday, July 26, 2018

And More Moths ...

This is National Moth Week, the subject of the last post on In Forest and Field; because of the large number of species found in northcentral Pennsylvania (vastly more than the total of bird and mammal species combined) here are some additional photos of our moths.

At times moths can be confusing to identify as some species are found in several different colors and/or patterns, witness the abbreviated button slug moth –

Many moths are rather nondescript; others are colorful, even spectacular. Here's a sampling of several dozen moths found in northcental Pennsylvania, first the less showy

Now, some of our more spectacular and colorful moths   

Moths aren't just household, agricultural or forest pests - they also feed our songbirds, break down already dead material, are the primary food for northeastern bats and add beauty and interest to our woodlands.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

National Moth Week

July 21-29 is National Moth Week, a good time to enjoy and learn about moths.

Why moths? Because, many moths are extremely beautiful, their life cycles are interesting and moths are some of the most widely distributed and diverse groups on earth – and one of the most diverse groups in North America. Over 10,000 species of moths are found in North America, but even experts don’t actually know how many there may be.

Moth caterpillars are the primary food of many, perhaps most, of our forest-dwelling birds and moths are a vital food for insect-eating bats.

Your grandmother, like mine, may have thought of moths only as those pests that chewed holes in woolen clothing. Your neighbors, like ours, may only think of moths in relation to the gypsy moths that occasionally defoliate vast acreages of oak forests. But only a few species of moths would be described as "pests". So, please take a closer look at the moths that populate a summer night – and, in the case of some species, the day.

Here's a sampling of the moths of northcentral Pennsylvania; first some of the well camouflaged –

Then some of the many small "litter moths" whose larvae feed on fallen leaves on the forest floor

And the oddly shaped
Finally a few of the spectacular moths  
For years I relied on Holland’s The Moth Book to identify moths, but it was first published in 1903 and is long out-of-date. Fortunately, the Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America was released in 2012; it has greatly eased the naturalist’s formerly arduous task of identifying many species of moths.

If we turn on an outside light for a couple of hours on any night during the warmer months the moths come and we never know which ones we might find.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Northwoods Beavers

We were visiting far to the north where the mountains are higher and the forests are healthier than in northcentral Pennsylvania. A journey to the base of a notch in the mountains brought us to a wetland with a beaver pond. The beavers have quite a view from their chosen abode –

Their dam, composed of sticks and mud, backs up enough water to make a pond of about an acre above which is another, smaller pond  –

There’s a beaver lodge not far from the dam –

Surprisingly, there’s a second active beaver lodge not far from the first, it can be seen against the upturned roots of a fallen tree –

In a small pond such as this there would usually be only one beaver family group using a lodge occupied by a pair of beavers, their offspring from the previous year and the young of the current year. 

These beavers were exceptionally unwary, even appearing to be curious, and were active in mid-day. They swam back and forth in the pond, affording good opportunities for photographs –

One ate bark from a large piece of wood that had recently been incorporated into the distant lodge –

Another beaver nibbled bark from a small twig –

Although beavers are renowned for cutting trees and feeding on the bark of aspen, birch, willow and maple they also eat bark from other species and readily feed on the roots of cattails and water lilies.

Beavers are fascinating animals and this colony in such a scenic setting is a gem.