Total species number

A few weeks ago I posted about our project's species count and how it was climbing. @sambiology commented on the post and noted that there were a lot more species of Oklahoma moth observations in iNaturalist that were not in the project and provided a search link. Since then I have been slowly going through all of the moth observations for the state and adding them to the project, one by one... by one... by one... Yeah it's a pain.

Anyway, if you pay attention to the project species count, you've probably noticed it climbing at an unusual pace over the last couple of weeks. The total number of identified Oklahoma moth species in iNaturalist right now is 657. I still have a little more than 500 observations to move into the Oklahoma project to get us up to that number. From that point on, it will be really exciting to see the species count go up.

In the process of adding each observation to the project, I have been identifying as many observations as I can. Some of these had been languishing in the Moths and Butterflies (Lepidoptera) order for a long time. I really like to see every observation identified to species level, but some can't be identified that specifically either due to the photo quality or because some species require additional information beyond a photo to properly identify.

Some tricky ids that come to mind:

Tussock Moths - Banded (Halysidota tessellaris) and Sycamore (Halysidota harrisii) are nearly identical as moths, although the caterpillars are visually different. Sycamore caterpillars are very white and fluffy with two orange tufts at one end, whereas Banded caterpillars can be white to yellow overall with dark gray/black tufts at both ends. As a moth, one of the best clues is the presence or absence of nearby sycamore trees.

Grape Leaffolders - It's the battle of Desmia funeralis vs. Desmia maculalis! Photos of the underside (ventral) of the abdomen are needed to separate these two species. D. funeralis has a solid (or nearly solid) white abdomen. D. maculalis has a striped black/white abdomen. Also, the spots on the top of the wings of D. maculalis tend to be smaller than those on funeralis, but you really need both at the same time to compare the size of spots...

Clepsis species - There are several species that resemble each other closely. I used to think that I could reliably separate Garden Tortrix (Clepsis peritana) from Greenish Apple Moth (Clepsis virescana. The field mark I was using was the presence or absence of two dark spots high on the forewings and near the center line. However, another iNat contributor who studies this section of moths at Cornell (@jasondombroskie) has suggested that they need to be scrutinized under a microscope to really tell them apart. My field guide also doesn't show these two spots.

Lesser/Greater Grapevine Looper (Eulithis diversilineata/gracilineata) - these are the creamy colored moths with tan bands on the wings and commonly posed with their abdomen curled up over their head. Several sources suggest these two species are indistinguishable in the field. My field guide says that some are indistinguishable, but that the presence of double AM and PM lines filled with brown is diagnostic for Greater. That being said, I see quite a few iNat observations with this feature that are identified as Lesser...

Micro moths! I don't have a lot of good advice on these. I am slowly starting to learn a few of these species so that now I can say whether the moth is one of the couple of species I know or something different. That helps a bit, but there are so many more that I don't know than ones I do.

Posted by zdufran zdufran, June 28, 2018 19:36



Beautiful! Keep it up, Zach!

Also, on some of those species that are super hard to tell apart, I think it's completely fine to let them rest at genus. I know that the shiny green "research grade" may not accompany the observation, but to get to genus on some of those moths is a challenge unto itself!

For those interested, here is the link using just the observation search:,47654

Posted by sambiology about 2 years ago (Flag)

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