Observation of the Week, 11/12/16

This Nyridela chalciope moth, seen by @lljohnson in the Dominican Republic, is our Observation of the Week!

Lisa Johnson has led quite a life. “I am a retired chemist, turned sailor, turned teacher, turned amateur naturalist,” she says. “After leaving Florida in 2001 on our sailboat, seeing a bit of the western Caribbean and teaching math and science in a couple of middle schools along the way;  we have settled here in the DR on about 7 acres on the side of a mountain growing food stuffs to eat and share with our neighbors.”

As an amateur naturalist, Lisa’s current interests are documenting the nearby butterflies, moths and birds in the Dominican Republic, and says she really enjoys “sharing my ‘finds’ with the local schoolchildren.”

The incredible Nyridela chalciope moth she photographed was one of dozens of moths that Lisa found one foggy morning while walking her dog. On a wall near one of the village’s three streetlights, she found many moths resting. “I went home, traded my dog for my camera and got back to the ‘moth wall’ before the sun burned off the cloud over and the moths dispersed,” she says. “That morning I took close to 200 photos of moths (one or 2 shots per moth), some in natural light. What a fun morning! What's needed for another moth photo session at the “moth wall”? Street power overnight, foggy conditions at sunrise, and a hot cup of coffee to get me out the door early before the birds and chickens enjoy the moth buffet.”

Nyridela chalciope is a member of the large Arctiinae subfamily of moths, which consists of about 11,000 species. Members of this family are often brightly colored as adults, and many of their caterpillars are covered in setae (“hairs”), giving them the nickname “wooly bears.” What’s really cool is that the adults have a tympal organ at the rear of their thorax, which can make ultrasonic sounds. The moths use these sounds both for mating and defense - they can deter and sometimes even “jam” the echolocation of bats! And some, like the Nyridela chalciope, are mimics of more dangerous animals, such as wasps - note the clear wings on this species. Some will even have yellow and black banding. If you think you see a wasp, look closely and see if it has moth-like antennae and lacks the narrow waist of a true wasp - you could be looking at a wasp mimic!

Lisa submits her findings to iNaturalist, as well as the Butterfly and Moth Association of North America, and has used iNat to also “meet” a few other nature photographers in the Dominican Republic. She says, “I'm encouraged that some of the abundance of nature here, will be better documented. I'm not a biologist and I depend on others with more knowledge to verify my proposed identifications on many of my photos, especially the moths. I'm hopeful that through iNat I will continue to meet the experts!”

- by Tony Iwane

- Check out this insane Wasp Moth in Texas.

Posted by tiwane tiwane, November 13, 2016 05:28


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