April 19, 2022

A slow start is better than no start!

The 2022 season was going be the year I added significantly to my late winter observations...until Covid finally caught up with me; quickly followed by a stupid case of tripping in the dark on my front patio, falling, and breaking both wrists and my left elbow. Yeah. A nearly five-pound camera rig is hard to hold in a cast and a splint! (It would have never happened had I been carrying my camera--I am every vigilant then.)

While I managed to get out of the splint on my right wrist after only four weeks, the left was on another three, complete with thumb spica. The elbow set ever so slightly off, and took some time to work up to a decent range of motion. Thus, it was the last week of March before I could take any real pictures, and then I was able to do so in only short spurts, turning the light against the side of the house, as I couldn't quite manage my normal gauged sheet setup. I was frustrated.

BUT despite those challenges along with cold, rain, and high winds interspersed among a handful of gorgeous 80ºF days, I have managed thus far to accumulate 12 Choctaw County, OK records and one state record as of April 9th.

This year I purchased my second LepiLED, this time the Mini-switch, for portable use with the traps I have yet to finish building. For now, I'm seeing good results with my 50W 365nm UV LED lamps I purchased off Amazon. Both are waterproof, allowing me to leave my lights setup without fear of damage. It's not uncommon for me to go to bed around 11:00PM, then get up at 3:00 or 4:00AM and find new moths--sometimes even more when I finally wake up at 7:00AM. For general daily sheet work in reach of electric, I cannot get past the fact that my 50Ws are exceedingly affordable in comparison with the Lepis. That being said, I can run the LepiLEDs out in the field off small power packs, giving me a lot more flexibility. The Mini-switch is also able to be run off the a battery pack of smaller size (under 100watts) that is allowable under current TSA lithium battery standards, making it a good option for travel.

We shall see how this season goes. As usual, thanks to all those who lend their experitise in identification, and those whose mothy friendship has greatly enriched my life.


Posted on April 19, 2022 02:44 AM by annainok annainok | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 24, 2021

Three years in...

This will be my third season of mothing. I'm finally beginning to feel as though I have some SMALL measure of competency, although that's likely to fade rapidly as the season progresses.

When I started this process in 2019, I had some eleven moth species to my credit over at BAMONA. Finding iNat made it a lot easier to catalog everything, and gave me a huge opportunity to interact with men and women working in the field professionally as well as serious citizen scientists. I've tried to take advantage of every opportunity, and consider it a privilege.

To date, I have 647 Oklahoma species, almost all of them within the confines of my sixty-acre farm--most of them within the five acres immediately surrounds our house. It is truly humbling, as well a particularly awesome to realize the enormous amount of diversity that can be found in a relatively small area. We are uniquely located within a stone's throw of Hugo Lake, and the protected land that surrounds it. On all sides we're surrounded by mostly undeveloped pasture land and woods, the homes of our neighbors are not overly landscaped nor treated for insect pests. These are ideal conditions for observation/specimen gathering. However, sometimes you find yourself in unfamiliar territory with time on your hands--pack the lights and see what turns up, right?

A couple weeks ago, my family and I went to Hot Springs, Arkansas for a week in our timeshare on Lake Hamilton. I was excited for the opportunity to view moths that might be found in the higher elevations of the Oachita Mountain Range. I set up my LepiLED on the balcony the first night rather than put out the sheets. It was Mother's Day weekend and lots of folks were milling about. Still, since our unit is on the end of the condo next to a wooded area, I had hope...

To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. Seven moths and handful of caddis flies were all I had to show for the night. My mind immediately ticked off all the reasons why, from the elevation of the balcony, the weakness of the LepiLED in comparison to my larger UV/MV lights at home, to the liberal use of sprays to keep down mosquitoes and other bugs that annoy tourists; I was convinced the wrath of the insect gods had been incurred and the critters were conspiring against me.

On Sunday night, in spite of the appearances, I set up my sheets in the rain gutter area in front of our condo, right next to the woods. Lackluster turnout...but there is this one little moth that caught my eye. I get four or five shots and then it disappears into the night. Going inside, I downloaded the photos and started searching. It looks like Olethreutes osmundana. Definitely out of range according to everything I can find. However, I've been told a dozen times, identification trumps range when it comes to moths; we simply don't have enough data in many, many cases. Jason Dombroskie agreed with my tentative id, and now I possibly have the first sighting of O. osmundana west of the Mississippi River. That tiny accomplishment was total compensation for the lack of numbers and the rain that came each night save the last.

Moths don't care if you're a professional or an amateur observer. They don't respect degrees. They simply show up. And if you're there with your trap, net, lights or camera, you have the chance to make a tiny piece of lepidopteran history. What a way to start year three!

Posted on May 24, 2021 08:41 PM by annainok annainok | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 07, 2020

The Choristoneura rosaceana Confusion (credit: Jason Dombroskie)

Early on in my iNat moth experience, I realized the identifications of Jason Dombroskie are invaluable. When he says something isn't something, I don't question it--until today. I thought I had the associated observation right at Choristoneura rosaceana, but then I spent too long looking at it, and went for C. parallela owing to a lack of flare near the apex of the costal margin. Of course, Mr. Dombroskie corrected my error...but why? I asked and he, quite courteously, answered:

"I get that question a lot so I did a short write up a while back:

"Today I was asked how to separate species that look similar to Choristoneura rosaceana and thought I'd share my response here since it is commonly collected and frequently misIDed. The short answer is assume everything is C. rosaceana unless you have reason to believe otherwise. The longer answer is below and basically outlines my thought process. Note this doesn't always work and I still have a pile of specimens that I haven't put a name on yet. So treat this advice as tentative.

"Archips purpurana males with stout FW with an angular costal margin and females with an exaggerated costal sinuosity.
C. fractivittana is pretty distinctive by smooth FW pattern in both sexes and slender costal fold in the male.
C. albaniana have a far northern / high elevation distribution. FW usually finely strigulated, can sometimes have a greyish wash or all grey. HW white.
Male C. rosaceana almost always have a rudimentary triangular costal fold (all species below lack a costal fold). Highly variable FW pattern. When in doubt, brushing the tip of the abdomen will show a bulbous uncus. Widespread and abundant.
C. obsoletana males usually have the median band obsolete in the middle of the FW. Common in FL, rare northwards to KS, IL, & MA. Uncus slender, sacculus more-or-less smooth and nearly reaches end of valve.
C. parallela males vary a bit in FW pattern, but usually pale brown - straw. Widespread in east, rare n of MO - OH - NY. Uncus slender, sacculus is roughly 3/4 length of the valve and with a variably expressed tooth near middle.
C. zapulata males usually have a pale straw FW. Widespread in west, in east restricted to Great Lakes dunes and a few populations in NB & QC. Brushing will show a variably broad uncus, sometimes almost similar to C. rosaceana.
Female C. rosaceana FW highly variable, costal margin usually sinuous, though not as exaggerated as A. purpurana. HW usually half orange half grey. Sterigma sclerotized and cup-shaped (largely membranous with a colliculum in next three species).
Female C. parallela FW with straight to at most subtly undulating costal margin, usually orange and with a well defined median band. HW half orange half grey.
Female C. obsoletana FW with straight costal margin, often orange and usually with the median band broadly interrupted in middle. HW yellow.
Female C. zapulata FW with straight costal margin, straw coloured. HW half whitish half grey."

That's a lot to digest, especially when you're not quite as fluent in moth morphology as the experts. Understanding these descriptions usually involves reading with my guides in hand--two or three or times over. BUT it's getting easier as time goes by.

Many thanks, sir!

Posted on August 07, 2020 07:57 PM by annainok annainok | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 16, 2019

A simple idea.

In 2001, when my family and I moved to Sawyer, Oklahoma, I was shocked at the lack of inclusion of our area in scientific activity and records, whether professional or amateur, despite our diverse ecological systems and abundant wildlife. As I've learned in the years since, the reasons for that are a complex mix of social, educational, and economic factors that need to be addressed if the true scope of Oklahoma's wildlife is to be uncovered.

To that end, what can one person do? I began with a simple project in mind: cataloging the flora and fauna found on our small 60-acre farm. We're uniquely situated in an area bordered by state park/conservation managed lands on the southeastern edge of Hugo Lake, a mile or so northeast of the Kiamichi River and less than ten miles northwest of its eventual destination: the Red River that divides Texas and Oklahoma. Our property contains two ponds: one five-acre and the other about a half-acre, at opposite ends of the farm.

We've run goats and cows on our land for about twelve out of the past eighteen years, using almost no chemicals except for the occasional spot treatment a few times. After a couple of tough years fighting hay drought, this past winter we dropped our cows and are now looking to convert to pollinator/bird/wildlife habitat. It's a project of no small effort. It will take a while, but in the first summer, I have been shocked to see how quickly the native plants have recovered.

It's my hope that I will be able to establish a practice that encourages other family farms to establish their own small spaces that will help to create pollinator/bird-friendly habitat.

Posted on October 16, 2019 11:35 PM by annainok annainok | 1 comment | Leave a comment

October 15, 2019

iNaturalist hack for restricting Lepidoptera observations to moths

I went to this forum discussion: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/how-to-use-inaturalists-search-urls-wiki/63

Without restating the entire post:
When you go to the Observations page at https://www.inaturalist.org/observations you will have the chance to filter for YOUR observations. When you choose that option, you will see that a url has been generated for your user id. Now, specify a search for Lepidoptera.

You will then find an inserted string: &taxon_id=47157

Your observations are now limited to Lepidoptera. To exclude all the butterflies for a moth-only list, you simply have to insert into the url address the excluded taxon id string for Papilionoidea: &without_taxon_id=47224

You can insert this neatly following the &taxon_id=47157 or at the very end of your url. You'll get the same results either way.

Thus, I developed my own url:


This gives me all my moths, without my butterflies (excluding Superfamily Papilionoidea)

Just putting this here so I can find it...it's probably old news to everyone else. :)

Posted on October 15, 2019 04:22 PM by annainok annainok | 1 comment | Leave a comment