Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Festival of Moths - Blacklighting Adventures in Mindo, Ecuador


The setup. You can see one mercury vapor light behind the sheet and another at the left hand side. Behind and towards the left hand edge of the sheet is a fluorescent black light tube.

I am a recent convert to black lighting, and I’ve been craving a real tropical experience with it. Black lighting is a process for attracting nocturnal insects for observation, collecting, or photography. A sheet is suspended so that it hangs down with the lower edge draping onto the ground. Fluorescent black lights or mercury vapor lights are then placed in front of the sheet. Night-flying insects are drawn in and land on the sheet or on the nearby ground. I had a go of it in Costa Rica last winter. Unfortunately, February on the Costa Rican Pacific coast is a very dry time of year, and I attracted little.

My Ecuadorian experience was much more rewarding. A couple of the guys attending the conference are going on to the Amazon afterwards and brought black lighting equipment with them. They borrowed a gasoline-powered generator from our host in Ecuador, and good times ensued.

They set up on two consecutive nights. The first was on a ridge line at about 5,000’ above the town of Mindo. The other was along the Mindo River about 1000’ lower. The habitat in both cases is cloud forest. We got substantially different stuff at both locations. I offer the following festival of moth photos as a small sampling of what we saw.

Night 1: Black Lighting at Sachatamia Lodge. November 14, 2007.



Satyrniidae. This species had about an 8" wingspan.
Added 3/12:
Rhescyntis hippodamia


Automeris sp.




The moth with headlights. The bright white spots are not luminescent like a firefly, but they did glow brilliantly under the black light. Could the scales contain a fluorescent compound? Edited 7/20/16 Dysschema sp.


A tiger moth that mimics clearwing butterflies. The wings were completely transparent. Clearwing butterflies are toxic (the larvae eat nightshades). I don't know whether the moth is also toxic (Müllerian mimicry) or tasty (Batesian mimicry).




This moth confused me. It's a dead ringer for certain kinds of metalmark butterfly, but it's clearly a moth. Some sort of mimicry?
(Edited 7/14  Erateina sp.)



Since we're going on about mimicry, I thought I''d include one photo of a leaf mimic. There were many species of moths on the sheet that looked like leaves.




There were several species of beautiful red moths. I'm pretty sure that most of them were tiger moths (Edited 7/14 
Hyperthaema orbicularis).



Another beautiful red and black moth.



A study in 8's
(Edited 7/14 Pantherodes unciaria- a Geometrid)



This moth was tiny. The wingspan was only about 1/2".



Nope, it's not photoshopped. Those really are the colors. I love the tropics.
Blacklighting along Rio Mindo. November 15, 2007. There was much more at the sheet along the river. Unfortunately, the generator ran out of gas fairly early in the evening, so the festivities were cut short.




I'm pretty sure this is in the family Uraniidae. Many species in this family are diurnal and look like swallowtail butterflies. This one came to lights.

Unfortunately, you can only get a glimpse of the beautiful bright yellow hindwings on this species. Probably a noctuid.
There were numerous species of wasp moths (Cteneuchinae) that came to the sheet on both nights. I managed to use my headlamp and flash to get several examples after the generator ran out of gas.


(Edited 7/14 Loxophlebia nomia)


(Edited 7/14 Sarosa sp.)


(Edited 7/14 Cosmosoma sp.)

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12 Comments:

At 13:54, Anonymous Mark H said...

Fantastic stuff for a non-biologist to get to see. 8 inch wingspan, eh? Yes, I can see you must have been having a thrill of a lifetime looking at the collection. I was thrilled for you.

 
At 17:23, Blogger Homer said...

I love moths- I rescued one out of my sink this morning.

 
At 18:35, Blogger butterfly girl said...

Just gorgeous! I hope you have a scrapbook!

I must say I really liked the fancy blue one best.

 
At 21:22, Anonymous Jyoti said...

Stunning shots! Gorgeous images! Incredible amount of details ... and of course teamed with knowledgable-&-curious aptitude to spot, identify, capture and demonstrate these different beautiful creatures.... Looks like it was a very rewarding adventure ..

 
At 10:20, Blogger robin andrea said...

What incredibly beautiful images, doug. Those moths are jaw-droppingly gorgeous. I've never wanted to travel to Ecuador until now. I want to hang out at night with a blacklight and watch this fantastic winged lightshow begin. Stunning.

 
At 22:27, Blogger Ur-spo said...

i can sense you were happy as a clam at high tide!
happy thanksgiving to you!

 
At 06:33, Blogger Doug said...

Amazing photos! As Ur-spo said, I get the feeling you were a giddy as a school girl. ;)

Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! *hugs*

 
At 20:36, Blogger BentonQuest said...

Beautiful critters!

Happy Thanksgiving Doug!

 
At 21:58, Blogger Kevin Z said...

Wow! what a diversity, nice haul. I had no idea such a thing as Wasp moths existed. I am pleasantly surprised to learn new things!

 
At 21:23, Blogger andrea said...

dang, you get the COOL stuff! we just had a gazillion Noctuids and dull brown Scarab beetles...

 
At 18:08, Blogger Kathiesbirds said...

Doug, I'm speechless with the beauty of these insects. The patterns are amazing and the color combinations are breathless! What an experience! So many more insects than birds! You will never be bored!

 
At 22:22, Blogger John said...

The moth with "headlights" would be a Dysschema sp., according to this site: http://janzen.sas.upenn.edu/
Thanks for posting these beautiful pictures of beautiful moths!

 

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