I wear many hats as a naturalist. I enjoy learning about all aspects of nature. Recently, I added mother to my list of interests. Let me rephrase. I'm now a moth-er. Just as birders enjoy and study birds, moth-ers enjoy and study moths.
My interest in moths is not new. I've often noticed the tremendous diversity of moths that gather by the porch light at night. Giant silkmoths such as lunas and cecropias are impossible to miss. Size and color almost always attract attention.
Most of the porch moths, however, are small and drab. For some reason, they never caught my interest. Perhaps it's because there wasn't a good field guide to moths. A few weeks ago that changed with the publication of an excellent new field guide.
Back in April, Houghton Mifflin published the "Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America" by David Beadle and Seabrooke Leckie ($29). It covers nearly 1,500 species (of North America's 10,000-plus species) and presents them in full color. On the facing page of each plate, range maps and detailed text describe each species. Next to each species' name is a simple chart that indicates its season of activity. The text also lists the host species for the caterpillars of each species.
As I reviewed "Moths," it became apparent that most species are drab and cryptically colored. But many, even some of the smaller species, are as colorful as some butterflies. And illustrations of many species jogged my memory of moths I had often seen, but ignored.
For example, many underwing moths perch with their drab front wings covering their colorful hind wings. By day, this is perfect camouflage. But when startled by a potential predator, they expose their bright hind wings. This often startles the predator and gives the moth just a split second head start to escape.
Similarly, some moths (io and polyphemus, for example) have large eyespots on their hind wings. These eyespots can also be flashed to frighten predators.
Emerald moths use their beautiful green color to hide among leaves. Bird-dropping moths mimic, you guessed it, bird droppings. Hungry birds ignore them.