August 01, 2020

What a pace!

Who knew mothing would become so popular? July is generally the peak month for moth observations in Ontario and there were a record 46,288 observations added to the Moths of Ontario project in July. To put that in perspective, the number of monthly observations in July for each of the last 3 years was (rounded):
July 2017 - 3,700
July 2018 - 11,000
July 2019 - 24,400

So records basically tripled from 2017 to 2018, then more than doubled in 2019, and have almost doubled again in 2020. Phenomenal.

National Moth Week also appears to be a success with 16,300 records so far, averaging 2,000+ per day. I suspect that more observations will be added over time if others, like me, still have photos to post from that week.

One by-product of the massive increase in records is that it may take some time for your observations to be confirmed. Remember, this is a volunteer, peer-resourced site, so please take a little time to 'pay it forward' and add some IDs to other people's observations if you have a few moments.

Posted on August 01, 2020 17:48 by dkaposi dkaposi | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 22, 2020

New Ontario Moths Checklist available

A surprising number (to me) of new moths are added to the list of Ontario species regularly - including at least three new species in the last month or so. To help keep track of developments, David Beadle and Mike King have teamed up with Phill Holder to publish an updated provincial checklist. Here are the details from the publisher:

"As more and more naturalists discover the enjoyment of identifying and appreciating moths, comes the inevitable urge to put together a personal list, but first there has to be a definitive provincial list. The authors have researched all published records and private collections to publish the first complete, and most up to date checklist of the 3187 verified moth species recorded in Ontario.

The main checklist includes photographic plates with examples of the family of each species. Separate sections include photographic additions to the list and a few records awaiting verification. All these records include dates, locations, and finders’ names.

With more than 230 photographs, we believe this checklist will be invaluable to all moth enthusiasts from beginner to expert and is spiral bound for easy use."

The checklist will be available August 1, and it is available for pre-order here.

Posted on July 22, 2020 12:09 by dkaposi dkaposi | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 13, 2020

National Moth Week approaching!

National Moth Week runs each year in the last full week of July. This year (2020) it begins this coming weekend (July 18-26).

In the past few years, Ontario has lead all Canadian provinces/territories and American states in number of observations submitted and species reported in iNaturalist - let's see if we can do it again!

If you want to follow the week's results, check out the NMW 2020 Ontario project here:

To participate, just report your moth observations during the week to iNaturalist.

Participants are encouraged to register their public or private "events" here:

Happy Moth-ing!

Posted on July 13, 2020 02:16 by mikeburrell mikeburrell | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 11, 2020

DIY entomology II - build your own moth trap

@mikeburrell recently posted a how-to on building your own moth trap, including tips on where to source materials. These traps are fantastic and using them allows you to collect insects throughout the night, which is helpful as different species fly at different times. So if you are relying on a sheet and staying up until 1:00 am, you still may be missing some species. You also may get more sleep by using a trap....

One option to consider for the trap is a garbage can with a tight-fitting lid, rather than a muck bucket. The advantage of the garbage can is that you can store most of the material in the can, and leave it outside.

Also, as Mike notes in his post, mercury vapour lights are becoming hard to find. High quality UV bulbs are also good for traps. Bioquip, based in Los Angeles, will ship to Canada. I haven't found a Canadian vendor for this product. If anyone has any other suggestions, please add a comment below.

Posted on July 11, 2020 17:22 by dkaposi dkaposi | 1 comment | Leave a comment

May 18, 2020

More on moth's 'secret' role as pollinators

Moths have a little-known, yet important role in plant pollination and a team of British researchers published a paper last week on the topic in the Royal Society's Biology Letters. The article details research on pollination of wild flowers in an agricultural setting in Norfolk (the original one, not the one on the Lake Erie shore...). Apparently, moths' hairy abdomens are under-researched as pollen transport vectors. From the abstract:

"Here, we report that in agricultural landscapes, macro-moths can provide unique, highly complex pollen transport links, making them vital components of overall wild plant–pollinator networks in agro-ecosystems. Pollen transport occurred more frequently on the moths' ventral thorax rather than on their mouthparts that have been traditionally targeted for pollen swabbing. Pollen transport loads suggest that nocturnal moths contribute key pollination services for several wild plant families in agricultural landscapes, in addition to providing functional resilience to diurnal networks. Severe declines in richness and abundance of settling moth populations highlight the urgent need to include them in future management and conservation strategies within agricultural landscapes."

For those looking for new reading material, there are dozens of references in the article that may be of interest.

Finally, here are two news articles on the research, from the BBC and from CNN. I'm not aware of any Canadian coverage yet.

If anyone knows of similar Canadian or U.S research, please let me know.

Posted on May 18, 2020 16:25 by dkaposi dkaposi | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 16, 2020

DIY Entomology - info on collecting, pinning, labeling, dissecting etc.

There are over 400 members of the moths of Ontario project now (thanks to all of you who have joined!), and there are a variety of ways that people approach this hobby. Many of us just take photos, but some are collecting specimens. For those who have an interest in collecting, here are a couple of places to find excellent information on various aspects of the subject.

Mark Read (@markread) alerted me to a new series of videos from Kyhl Austin (@kyhlaustin) at Cornell. Kyhl released a series of videos on collecting, identifying, sexing and dissecting moths, with a focus on pining micro moths:

There are multiple other options with related content, and this series from Oregon State University has a broader taxa focus, but there are many components related to moths and butterflies, as well as a video on creating labels:

Please share any other suggestions in the comments section.

Posted on April 16, 2020 01:07 by dkaposi dkaposi | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 14, 2020

Spring mothing - have you tried bait?

I haven't yet, but I noticed some interesting observations recently at bait and I asked Stuart Tingley (@stubirdnb) about his observations, and he sent the following:

"All of the 'serious' moth people here in NB always bait in spring. My first moths are almost always at bait before any appear at the lights. The first moth reports here almost always come from maple syrup producers who find moths getting into their sap buckets before anyone sees any at their lights. The bait is also great for attracting early beetles, day and night.

I'm not fussy about bait recipes. I mash up a couple of ripe or overripe bananas, add a few tablespoons of brown sugar and sprinkle in a teaspoon or so of powdered yeast. I think it works best if you let it sit in a sealed container at room temperature for a couple of days but sometimes I use it fresh and it still works. If it gets too runny I just add some oatmeal to thicken it up. We have a woodlot just 75 meters from the house and I bait a half dozen deciduous tree trunks along the edge or just inside the forest. I usually reapply every couple of days or right after it rains or snows.

All the best!


I spoke to Dave Beadle about this topic and he passed along a suggestion from Mary Gartshore - she has had success getting pinions and sallows on small branches, as well as the trunk. So try different spots on the tree as well.


Posted on April 14, 2020 03:22 by dkaposi dkaposi | 3 comments | Leave a comment

January 21, 2020

A less negative view on changing moth populations

There have been a few news stories discussing declines in insect populations in the last two years or so, and some of those have come under criticism for methodological issues or "extrapolating beyond the data". The headlines about 'insect armageddon' following the release of the German study in 2017 became topical and were concerning for many. I just learned about a recent UK study that was profiled in the Guardian newspaper that offers a less alarming conclusion.

The UK study is interesting and possibly unique because of the timeframe, it covers 50 years of moth sampling at over 30 sites across the UK. It has a much longer reference period that the German study that got so much attention. The UK study actually points to an increase in biomass over the first portion of the study (roughly 1967 to 1982), followed by a decline. However, over the entire study period, biomass increased, which is interesting given that we are still in the period of decline. Starting points are important as the German study covers only the second part of the timeframe, and only documents a decline. The conditions could be very different in the two countries, but it is in instructive to note that the trends reversed dramatically in the UK. And that may have been the case in Germany, but we don't know because the German data series doesn't go back as far.

You can request a free copy of the UK study from the author at the following link if you are interested in some of the details. Different moth families have different trajectories, and the data is also segregated by land use type (agricultural, forest, urban etc)

Further commentary on the topic is also available on iNat's discussion forum

Posted on January 21, 2020 03:33 by dkaposi dkaposi | 1 comment | Leave a comment

December 08, 2019

Thickson's Wood moth project profiled

There is a run on mothing articles. After the Star's profile of the High Park project in August, Ontario Nature's winter issue of ON Nature just published an article on Phil Holder's project at Thickson's Woods in Whitby, where they've documented over 1,000 species. Unfortunately, most of the Thickson's group are not on iNaturalist so we only get some highlights from @dbeadle and @mhking, who participate occasionally.

Posted on December 08, 2019 13:05 by dkaposi dkaposi | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 04, 2019

Star article profiling the High Park Moth Study

The Toronto Star had a great profile of urban naturalists at work in Toronto's High Park recently. Apparently, stringing up weird lights and hanging about in a park after dark looking at insects is front page news:

Congratulations to the volunteer group running the Study, including iNat members @richard_aaron, @taylorleedahl, @jon_hayes, @kens18, @dbeadle, @garyyankech, @leplady0209 and @kyukich

Posted on September 04, 2019 00:10 by dkaposi dkaposi | 1 comment | Leave a comment