Bob Patterson's
Entomology Hobby Page

Digital Photos from My Garden
and elsewhere

Moths -- My Favorites
500 Species in My Yard?

Period ID'd unID'd Total
Thru Nov. 7, 2003 61   27   88  
Thru April 2004 110   20   130  
May 2004 224   12   236  
June 2004 76   31   107  
July 2004 65   31   96  
August 2004 48   17   65  
September 2004 17   20   37  
October 2004  6    6   12  
2004 Ending Total 607   164   771  
2006 Ending Total 719   100 ? 819 ?

At the end of the 2003 moth season (Oct. 8 to Nov. 7), with a few days off for bad weather, I photographed 85 species of moths in my yard. The great majority of them were attracted to the coach lamp at my side door, or to the pair of lamps mounted on the front of my house. Each lamp contained a regular 100-watt light bulb. I used no baits or special lights. I am absolutely certain that I missed at least 15 species simply because I did not spend 100% of my time outside. I saw a few species that flew away before I could get a photograph. There were times I had to make a choice as to which new species to shoot first, and my activities provoked others into leaving before I could get around to them. I suspect that in 2004, with a full season that is 7-8 times longer than my limited 2003 season, I might easily surpass 400 species of moths, and possibly 500. [How about 800??] It will be fun finding out. I got a few other species of moths earlier in the year when I was collecting butterflies. So, I'm going to start the scorecard at 88 species. [Note, 12/26/04] Of the 771 species noted at right, 2 species came from Larry Line's place in Clarksville, MD., and have not yet been seen in my yard.

June 1, 2004:   I now use a high intensity mercury vapor lamp as well as a fluorescent black light to attract moths to resting areas in my yard. Nearly all the photography is done indoors in the new Moth Lounge that I built in a corner of my large storage room. To calm the moths captured in prescription medicine vials they are placed in the Moth Fridge for about two hours. Then they are released onto an appropriately colored background surface where, if they remain still, I take several photographs. They are also free to fly about the small moth lounge (a fair percentage do so) where I wait for them to land on the carpet or a wall. Sometimes they prefer to land on me and I have to turn the camera on myself to photograph them on my shirt, pants or shoes. After I take their photographs the moths are released to the outdoors, excepting the case of new species that I give to Larry Line (in which case he photographs and releases them). A few moths die from this handling, but the percentage is very small.

December 26, 2004:   Although the table above shows 607 identified species I can find only 601 possibly distinct species in the folders for which I have pages now on this website. I expect that, when I have time to combine all my unidentified moths onto one series of pages, with duplications deleted, that the 164 species listed above will shrink to something like 130 or so. Thus, my total for the year may actually be about 735 species. The last seven new species for the year were attracted, during the period October 26 through November 4, to bait painted on boards and trees in my yard, and on a few trees and a powerline pole just across the street. For the most part my various lights stopped attracting moths after about October 15, which was very different from 2003. Our days and evenings in late October and early November 2004 were generally cooler than during the same period of 2003.

What About YOUR Yard?:   One of the purposes of my websites is to encourage others to take up the hobby of nature photography, right in their yard and garden. Prior to this past year (but after 50 years as a nature enthusiast) I had absolutely no idea of the hundreds of species of moths that share "my space." Or of the many hundreds of other insect species that abound on my small property, in the aggregate probably exceeding the number of species of moths. A digital camera is all that is needed to begin an inexpensive hobby. Identifying what you photograph and sharing the photos with others via the Internet can be a very rewarding, intellectual experience. Becoming more aware of YOUR place in nature can be exciting!

Apart from the intensive effort that I put forth this year in photographing moths, my record of 700+ species in one year is probably nothing special, and could be duplicated with equal or less effort elsewhere. Almost everyone lives amidst an abundance of moths. David Beadle tells me that he has photographed in just a few years about 300 species of moths in his tiny yard (15 ft. x 15 ft.) in urban Toronto, Canada. Lynn Scott, near Ottawa but in the suburbs, has recorded over 400 species in a few years. Larry Line, 20 miles from me here in Maryland (but in a slightly more upland area), has photographed about 600 species at his place. In a suburban Connecticut location John Himmelman has identified about 700 species of macromoths on his property over a period of years (and has probably ignored almost as many micromoths). David Wagner, also in Connecticut, has had about 200 species attracted in one night by light to a sheet at a favorable location, and he tells me that almost any location will yield 1,200 species of moths (including micros) over time. Bruce Walsh tells me that in southeastern Arizona 1,000 species of macromoths ought to be a possibility almost anywhere.

Acknowledgments:  I owe a large debt of gratitude to Larry Line for his extensive support (encouragement, help with moth identification, loan of literature), advice and companionship. I can rather easily find about 70% of all the macromoths that I photograph already on Larry's website. The micromoths are a different matter. Photographs (mainly micros) have been sent to John Glaser who provides tremendous assistance with the identification of species we cannot find in our literature collection or on the Internet. John has a significant collection of Maryland moths, and he frequently supplies us with photos from his collection to gently explain to us why something often isn't what we think it is.

Numerous other persons have been a great help, either through email exchanges or by posting their own photographs on websites where we can search for species not found in the Covell Field Guide or other literature. Tony Thomas, of New Brunswick, Canada, has been invaluable to me. Hugh McGuinness and Steve Walter of New York, James Adams of Georgia, Lynn Scott of Ottawa, Canada, Cindy Mead of Michigan, Leisa Royse of Kentucky, Jerry Fauske of North Dakota, and Dean Edwards of Tennessee each have a large share of my gratitude