Seek, and Ye Shall Find

The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.

~Confuscius

This past month, I have tried to find 5 or 10 minutes each day at work to walk around the building breezeways to photograph any moths that were attracted to the lights the previous night. I hope to create a library of images of some of the common species. As I have reported before, I am relatively new to “mothing” and am still struggling to learn some of the more than 2600 reported species in NC. The release of the Peterson Field Guide to the Moths of Southeastern North America last year has made a huge difference in my ability to identify what I find. My copy is already showing signs of wear from the frequent page-flipping. I also refer to the Moths of North Carolina or Bug Guide web sites to confirm an identification.

Now I have another ally in my quest to learn more. It may be a game-changer, in fact. It is the Seek app by iNaturalist. Using the millions of observations on iNaturalist, Seek shows you lists of commonly recorded insects, birds, plants, amphibians, and more in your area. You don’t even need to take a photo, just open the camera and scan whatever you want to know more about. It instantly gives you information, and if it can’t ID it, it may suggest looking at the subject from a different angle. It is usually at least gets you to the family level or beyond even if it doesn’t ID to species. This free app is available for both iOS and Android. I have found it to be particularly useful for moth identification, most likely due to the countless recorded observations of several local moth enthusiasts. In order to get the best possible image, I usually take the photo with my normal camera set-up (100mm macro and twin flash), download the image onto my laptop, and then scan it with my phone and the Seek app for ID help.

I have double-checked many of the early identifications using the other references mentioned and found them to be accurate. A few times, Seek has not been able to provide anything but a family recommendation. But, overall, I have been very impressed with the results thus far.

Here are a few of the highlights from this past month. Note the variety of shapes, colors, and patterns. One thing you can’t tell from these images is the huge range in size – the Common Tan Wave has a wing span of about 20mm while that of the Io moth is about 80mm.

Canadian Melanolophia moth, Melanolophia canadaria 1

Canadian Melanolophia moth, Melanolophia canadaria (click photos to enlarge)

Confused Eusarca, Eusarca confusaria

Confused Eusarca, Eusarca confusaria

Black-dotted ruddy moth, Ilexia intractata

Black-dotted ruddy moth, Ilexia intractata

Common tan wave, Pleuropucha insulsaria

Common tan wave, Pleuropucha insulsaria

Baltimore snout, Hypena baltimoralis 1

Baltimore snout, Hypena baltimoralis – one of the more striking species this month

Delicate Cycnia moth, Cycnia tenera

Delicate Cycnia moth, Cycnia tenera

Dark-spotted Palthis moth, Palthis angulalis

Dark-spotted Palthis moth, Palthis angulalis

Ambiguous moth, Lascoria ambigualis

Ambiguous moth, Lascoria ambigualis

Curved-line angle, Digrammia continuata

Curved-line angle, Digrammia continuata

Ironweed root moth, Polygammodes flavidalis

Ironweed root moth, Polygammodes flavidalis – a delicate beauty with hints of iridescence

One-spotted variant, Hypagyrtis unipunctata

One-spotted variant moth, Hypagyrtis unipunctata  – quite variable indeed

Tulip-tree beauty 1

Tulip-tree beauty, Epimecis hortaria – a common bark mimic

White-marked tussock moth, Orgyia leucostigma

White-marked tussock moth, Orgyia leucostigma

Eastern grass tubeworm moth, Acrolophus plumifrontella 3

Eastern grass tubeworm moth, Acrolophus plumifrontella – a very common species right now

Variable oakleaf caterpillar moth, Lochmaeus manteo

Variable oakleaf caterpillar moth, Lochmaeus manteo

Oblique-banded leafroller moth, Choristoneura rosaceana

Oblique-banded leafroller moth, Choristoneura rosaceana

Southern flannel moth, Megalopyge opercularis

Southern flannel moth, Megalopyge opercularis – this is the adult form of the puss moth caterpillar

Juniper twig geometer, Patalene olyzonaria

Juniper geometer moth, Patalene olyzonaria

Large maple spanworm moth, Prochoerodes lineola

Large maple spanworm moth, Prochoroedes lineata

Io moth, Automeris io

Io moth, Automeris io – a large female

Io moth, Automeris io with wings spread

Io moth, Automeris io, with wings spread to reveal the false eye spots

10 thoughts on “Seek, and Ye Shall Find

  1. What a great collection of photos. You and Clyde need to get together – I think he has 540+ species in his personal porchlight project so far! I, too, am loving the SEEK app. That Common Tan Wave moth has the best camouflage I’ve seen in a while!

  2. Hey Mike, I haven’t checked in with Roads End in a while and it just popped up in my email today. Pretty impressive the way you have jumped in to mothing with both feet. Thanks for the tip on the Seek app. I will definitely check it out. When you said you had gone back to work I just assumed you went back to the museum. I was surprised to see that you are at the Botanical Gardens, but that makes more sense. I did make it all the way through your image gallery and was totally impressed by the quality and variety of images. Everything from macro insects to hyperactive warblers was top notch. Congrats. You have a standing invite to Baird’s Beach Cabana. I’ve gotten pretty familiar with all of the bird hangouts in the area. Sue and I are staying active. We have driven to all but 4 of the contiguous United States in the last 7 years. Having Madeline and the grandkids in Denver gives us a good excuse to head west from time to time. Hope you and Melissa are doing well. Cheers, Gary PS- Thanks for the recommendation of Neil Jernigan as our guide for our CNPA outing to Pungo. He did a great job and the group loved him.

    On Sun, Jun 30, 2019 at 9:34 AM Roads End Naturalist wrote:

    > roadsendnaturalist posted: “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by > their proper name. ~Confuscius This past month, I have tried to find 5 or > 10 minutes each day at work to walk around the building breezeways to > photograph any moths that were attracted to the lights the previ” >

    • Thanks for the feedback, Gary. Glad the trip with Neil worked out for you. He’s a good guy and a really good photographer. Hoping to re-retire in January. But my Dad just passed away so now dealing with all that and trying to figure out what is best for Mom. Lots to do…take care.

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