Seasonal Chart for Alabama Moths

I've been experimenting with different ways to illustrate seasonal presence of moths uploaded to iNaturalist, loosely basing it on the eBird Bar Chart which shows weekly bird data throughout the year. Each month is divided into the following day lengths: 7 | 7 | 7 | 7-10, with the last week being longer to account for varying month lengths. So after downloading the data from the Moths of Alabama project and configuring observation dates to match the weekly periods, the following result provides a concise summary through October 18, 2019:

Moths of Alabama Seasonal Chart

Version 2 with numbers

-Current chart shows both adult and larval life stages. As far as I know there is no way to download annotation fields with the data exports.
-Updating is a bit of a hassle as it has to be recreated from a new download; perhaps there are ways via API tools to create something that auto-updates, but I know nothing about that type of programming.
-Sort is currently alphabetic on scientific name; Hodges number/taxonomic would probably be better so may try that in the future.

Overall I've enjoyed looking through it to compare seasonal patterns as well as look for errors in the data. Feel free to comment with suggestions.

@a24 @johnmorgan @friel @petervanzandt @satchison @a43560

Posted on October 28, 2019 02:59 PM by johntrent johntrent


This is a great idea, and I imagine others would be interested in creating similar kinds of charts for other organisms and areas. I would suggest posting something about this over on the iNaturalist Forum It a great place to get input from others on these kinds of things, and forum members are always coming up with new ways to use observational data. I best you would get some good feedback there.

I also share your frustration regarding the underreporting of life stage for insect observations, and have been toying with the idea of systematically going through all the Lepidoptera observations from Alabama and adding this data. I'm not sure yet what the best mechanism might be to accomplish this task. Probably either specific iNaturalist project or creating a Zooniverse project

Posted by friel over 3 years ago (Flag)

I like databases and am an immediate fan of this one. Used one of my interest genus – Catocala – for a first look:

Having a “brain relief” sensation seeing AL overview/big picture. As I find or see Catocala postings I usually refresh my memory fragments for AL sighting months. How satisfying to see their timeline collated as a group.

Recent surge from smart phone/iNat apps greatly expands and builds on the longtime mother postings that were usually “small locale” based. Like any stats the overview is improved with more data points.
Note: Might be interesting to be able to see the number of data points/month or week to understand bell curve of each moth's AL lifeline. This might also show brood separation.

Can see I'm going to download and get into spreadsheet for my own interests. I use my photo albums to scroll every few months for what moths I'd expect to see then, and what I should be looking to see next months.

Absent auto updating don't know what reload timing would be useful. Maybe test a time or two over next year to see if there is much pattern change? Probably 1/yr would capture new posting locales that expand AL overview ongoing.

Don't know % but believe larva postings are very minor to adult. If number of month/week data points becomes available might investigate highs/lows/ or separated times for larva vs adult sightings.

Will add more thoughts as I play with the database. High appreciation for the time and effort this took.

Posted by a24 over 3 years ago (Flag)

I think this is a great idea--but iNaturalist already has a bunch of the same information. The drawback is you have to look at individual species. For example, I can look at Ailanthus Webworm Moth, restrict the search area to "Alabama" and the graph gives number of sightings each month for all 398 reported sightings, with a peak of 106 in July If there are caterpillars reported, the graph shows their monthly distribution. Using the filters, I can see there have been 86 reports this year. I can click on any of the dots on the seasonality chart and see a map of those sightings. Some species can be differentiated by sex and the chart allow you to see seasonality of the sexes. The drawback is that many of the sightings do not have annotations for life stage or sex.

Posted by a43560 over 3 years ago (Flag)

@a24 , your comment about your genus of choice made me look at the Catocala sightings for Alabama-- 429 sightings in the state. You are correct about larval sightings being low compared to adult. However, many of the sightings do not have annotations about age--though most certainly are adult. For instance, for June there are 130 observations of Catocala, of which 118 are Research Grade. But the Life Stage graph shows 14 adults and 1 caterpillar for the same month.

Posted by a43560 over 3 years ago (Flag)

@johntrent Combining multiple comments here I'd expect your database to drive interest areas - genus or species. We're all over the map for items catching our attention and will search out ways to capture and spreadsheet. I can certainly get iNat info for individual Catocala species. Then filter for items I want to study. For best accuracy I'd rather use RG.

Side Note: AL is fortunate that many AL folks try to ID as many AL moths possible. Then I've observed many experts not all in AL that strive to catch certain genus or in some cases experts that go back through RG and needs ID postings to make sure IDs are correct. Combined with the many AL experts posting ID correct to begin with I have good confidence that findings I distill from iNat will be relevant and accurate.

Comment about posting to forum will certainly get some folks to want same type database for their state and maybe someone will figure out how to auto update.

Posted by a24 over 3 years ago (Flag)

Excellent work @johntrent. Re sort: I wonder if it would be possible to filter the monthly (or maybe seasonal) distribution of species for Alabama, similar to NMW national stats? For example:
January moths:
Moth with highest numbers seen.
Moth with second highest numbers seen.
And so on.
February moths:
Moth with highest numbers seen.
Moth with second highest numbers seen.

Then maybe for October we could pull up the observations from most common to least common over past (variable) number of years; know what species to expect, and know which observations fall outside the time frames established.

Posted by johnmorgan over 3 years ago (Flag)

@johnmorgan , you can do pretty much that with iNat now. Set the Species to Lepidoptera, the Location to Alabama, use the filter to search a date range (say Sept 1, 2019 to Sept 30). Look under species and you find all Lepidoptera arranged by frequency of report--Somber Carpet (24 observations),. Elegant Grass-veneer (22), One -spot Variant (22), etc. Just overlook the butterfly postings. (I can't figure how to use an exclusion filter). Or go to the Alabama Moths project--which does have the butterflies excluded--and duplicate it and then apply date restrictions.

Posted by a43560 over 3 years ago (Flag)

How did the Alabama Moths Project exclude the butterflies?

Posted by a24 over 3 years ago (Flag)

@a24 , John Trent built the site, and should know. All I know is that under Observation Requirements there is an Exclusion filter that lets the project exclude taxa, locations, or observers. I am one of four Project Admins, so maybe my screen is different. There is an Edit Project link on my home page for Alabama Moths.

Posted by a43560 over 3 years ago (Flag)

Yes, the Observation Requirements filter for the Moths of Alabama project excludes any observations of the Superfamily Papilionoidea (Butterflies).

Posted by friel over 3 years ago (Flag)

That's a good point about searching for just moths. Since exclusion filters are only available for projects, you can use the Moths of Alabama project as a criteria in the regular search, which itself will act as the exclusion filter. Searching via the project itself automatically adds it into the filter, saving a step.

Posted by johntrent over 3 years ago (Flag)

Thanks, @johntrent! That makes it easier. Plus in the filters you can check "month" and see number of sightings reported for each species. Use the date/range filter and you could compare sightings year by year. To make your spread sheet more useful, you could put number of sightings in the weekly columns instead of merely an "x". The Alabama Butterfly Atlas has a Flight Period spreadsheet arranged like that.

Posted by a43560 over 3 years ago (Flag)

Good suggestion, as an example here's a version with numbers instead of "x", as well as a small bar graph for each. I didn't know excel could do those small graphs but kind of interesting, at least for the more common species. Also easy to see all the spikes during Moth Week.

Version with numbers

I'll look into seeing about what others have done similar to this in the forum, I agree a lot of this can be found via existing search tools but it's fun to look at other options and ways to see the data. Definitely makes my brain happy to see everything together!

Posted by johntrent over 3 years ago (Flag)

Numbers - was on my wish list! Yeah, Moth Week might look like we've had a statewide hatching, but for general viewing - numbers has relevance over the X. Gives that bell curve understanding. Can't tell much yet with Catocalas since data points are few but I like a number that will become more relevant over time.

I also understand all iNat data is there to find and use, but - having an all AL moth database like this to play with is high value to AL moth folks. Even casual AL moth posters might be interested in how their find fits in seasonal timing numbers. I've used the AL Butterfly Atlas for that very thing.

@johntrent when you place database for general use I'd appreciate how med-casual users would find it. Like the Alabama Moths Project we find it after someone mentions it usually. And maybe that's how it get done? More frequent posters pass link along and like me - bookmark it for return use.

Posted by a24 over 3 years ago (Flag)

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