Journal archives for June 2018

June 15, 2018

550 species and a question

Wow, we just hit 550 species in our Moths of Oklahoma project!

I am "subscribed" to all Lepidoptera observations in Oklahoma, so my daily digest email from iNaturalist includes a list of Lep observations that have been posted over the last 24 hours. I use this to make sure new moth observations are added to the project. I have been including caterpillars of moths, as I think it makes sense to include these in our assessment of Oklahoma's moth diversity. What are your thoughts: include moth caterpillars or only moths in adult form? Please comment.

I would hope that if we chose to include both that over time we will end up with a nice repository of both adults and caterpillars of most of our species.

Posted on June 15, 2018 13:58 by zdufran zdufran | 2 comments | Leave a comment

June 27, 2018

iNat curation

At our recent mothing night I was discussing curation of moth pages on iNaturalist. Since I've spent quite a bit of time on iNat, specifically on the moth pages, I've started dabbling with the community curation tools.

Here's what I've learned:

1. You can add names! Occasionally I'll end up identifying one of my observations as a species that has very few observations on iNaturalist and just lists the genus and species as the name, while other sources (bugguide or my field guide) list a "common name" for the moth. It's pretty easy to add a common name. Simply go to the species page, scroll down to the bottom of the taxonomy section and click on "Add a name." If you're adding a common name, you'll want to select "English" as the language. Voila! I just did this for the Cream-winged Bird-dropping Moth, which previously just said Tarache lactipennis. (By the way "pennis" means "wings" in Latin. I assume "lacti" means "milk.")

2. Select/reorder species photos! Sometimes there aren't any photos displayed for a species, or the photo isn't very good, or there is just one photo for a species with a lot of variation. There are a lot of reasons that maybe the photos displayed aren't the most helpful for quick comparisons. You can change this! Again, go to the species page, then click on Curation>Edit photos on the right side of the page, about half way down. You can drag photos from the left panel to the right and/or reorder the photos already on the right side. Whenever I do this I select the absolute best photo (photo quality and crisp specimen) as the first (default) photo, then try to select some other photos that show off the variety of markings or poses for the species.

3. Flag for curation. I have only had one instance to use this feature. I was looking through our Moths of Oklahoma project and noticed one record for a Tawny Shoulder (Agrotis subterranea) that looked a lot like a species I was familiar with, Subterranean Dart (Feltia subterranea). I clicked on the species page for Tawny Shoulder and found that there were only a handful of observations of the species and there wasn't an obvious visible difference from Subterranean Dart. After commenting on the observation we realized these were the same species and needed to be consolidated. I checked bugguide and there was no Agrotis subterranea. I used the Curation>Flag for curation tool and provided a short description of the issue. It didn't take long for one of the iNat taxonomy curators to respond, saying that a moth taxonomist, Lafontaine, had moved this species from Agrotis to Feltia in 2004 and that he would get it fixed in iNaturalist.

I don't suspect I'll be using that 3rd feature very often, but you never know. The first two are very handy and, when used with care, can be beneficial to all iNaturalist moth-ers.

Posted on June 27, 2018 22:04 by zdufran zdufran | 1 comments | Leave a comment

June 28, 2018

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 on June 28, 2018 19:36 by zdufran zdufran | 1 comments | Leave a comment