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Attracting moths and other night-flyers could be your next new project

Published in the South Texas Chapter Newsletter, June 2023

Story and photos by Anita Westervelt, South Texas Border Chapter


I’m fascinated with mothing. There’s more to it than discovering which moths occupy my backyard during the night.


Night-flying bugs are attracted to lights, too. It’s fun to find insects specific to Texas, which gives me an automatic affinity to new bugs and moths.


I’d like to encourage interest in mothing and uploading information onto iNaturalst.org or other data collection websites. The more regularly a moth sheet is used, the more moths and bugs it will attract. I started out with a make-shift set-up during the pandemic in 2020 and have since had a portable sheet apparatus built with two-by-fours and a white sheet, renewing the sheet when necessary.


National Moth Week 2023 is July 22-30.


You can read about how to get into mothing at our South Texas Border Chapter’s mothing blog: https://www.stbctmn.org/post/mothing written by our chapter webmaster, a spider enthusiast and macro-photographer who coordinates with local state parks and other venues to lead night hikes and mothing events.


Recently, I photographed an only-in-Texas-U.S. bug, Susuacanga stigmatic, a longhorned beetle whose larval plants are hackberry, acacia and willows. I uploaded it to iNaturalsit.org and discovered Kingsville is as far north as this species has been mapped, and then down through the Rio Grande Valley and on south to Belize.


Susuacanga stigmatic, a longhorned beetle. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

Mothing is an ideal activity for night-owls, early-risers, insomniacs and anyone interested in knowing what comes out at night. I had a bat swoop toward me last week, it was much too big to be a moth, body darker than the ambient light, wing beats silent but powerful, close-set eyes glowing copper from the reflection of my headlamp. It happened too quickly to capture in a photo. I’ve also uploaded sound recordings to iNaturalist of frogs, great horned owls and other night birds while checking my moth sheet in the wee hours before dawn.


A Texas-only moth that came to my moth lights this week was identified as Erastria decrepitaria. It is documented in Texas with one observation as far north as the Timberlake Biological Field Station, more sightings from around Austin and south through Rio Grande Valley on to Brazil.


Erastria decrepitaria moth. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

Even more exciting was a new moth this week. I very nearly did not photograph it, thinking it was E. decrepitaria again, so let me heartily recommend, shoot first, identify later! The new moth identified as Eusarca asteria; it has not been mapped on iNaturalist as having been in the United States. That’s not to say it hasn’t appeared in the U.S., of course, but it is not recorded on iNaturalist. The iNaturtalist.org shows the species to have only 131 observations, only as far north as Monterrey, Mexico and south to Manzanillo, Costa Rica.


Eusarca asteria moth. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

Brypoctia ramose is a moth that came to my moth sheet during the 2023 City Nature Challenge. It is listed as having been found in Texas only as far north as Goliad, down to the Rio Grande Valley and on south to Costa Rica.


Brypoctia ramose moth. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

If you’re looking to expand your nature activities, give mothing a try.


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