Checklist of Vermont Moths Updated

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Moth watching on a warm June night. The black light is an old 'bug zapper' that has had the zapping parts removed.

Moth watching on a warm June night. The black light is an old ‘bug zapper’ that has had the zapping parts removed.

The checklist of Vermont moths has been updated by the Vermont Atlas of Life. Thanks to the tireless efforts of both professional and amateur Lepidopterists since the 1995 landmark publication Moths and Butterflies of Vermont: A Faunal Checklist, 168 new moth species have been found in Vermont. There are now 1,858 species of moths known from Vermont (918 macro and 940 micro moths). There are likely many more awaiting our discovery.

Ochre Dagger Moth (Acronicta morula). / © K.P. McFarland

Ochre Dagger Moth (Acronicta morula). / © K.P. McFarland

We first began this update by databasing the 1995 Faunal Checklist thanks to the keyboarding effort by JoAnn Russo, a dedicated Vermont moth watcher who is very active on iNaturalist Vermont, a project of the Vermont Atlas of Life. This list was updated to current scientific nomenclature found at the Moth Photographers Group and BugGuide. We then began to add new species that have been documented and reported over the last two decades in the Vermont Entomological Society newsletters, personal collections of Michael Sabourin, President of the Vermont Entomological Society and micro-moth expert, records from the Moth Photographers Group and BugGuide, scientific literature, and our project iNaturalist Vermont.

Since 2013, professional biologists and citizen naturalists  have contributed moth observations to the Vermont Atlas of Life through our iNaturalist Vermont. We turn on special lights in our backyards on summer nights to find hundreds of moths and other insects gathering on our sheets, hunt fields and forest for day-flying moths and place rotten fruit bait out to attract them. Many of these moths can be identified from good photographs (although some are impossible without dissection and examination under a microscope). With today’s amazing digital photography technology, coupled with new Peterson’s Field Guide to Northeastern Moths and web sites like BugGuide and Moth Photographers Group, moth watching has become increasingly popular.

Moth watchers have added a whopping 63 news species to the Vermont checklist via iNaturalist Vermont and have documented 826 species across the state. What’s even more amazing is that we’ve recorded over 6,500 moth observations, which help to understand their phenology, habitat use and range in Vermont like never before.

Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus). / © K.P. McFarland

Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus). / © K.P. McFarland

Soon, the new Vermont Atlas of Life web site will be unveiled. It will be a place where you can join a specific project or learn about Vermont’s amazing biodiversity. And this moth list, and other taxonomic groups, will be available for you to query and download. Like all science, this list will keep changing as we learn more and more about Vermont’s moth fauna. At the Vermont Atlas of Life, we’ll be here to keep it up-to-date for conservation, education and appreciation of our natural heritage.

Although many people overlook them, moths are numerous and widespread, with over 11,000 species in North America. They are a major part of our biodiversity and play vital roles in the ecosystem, affecting many other types of wildlife. Both adulta and their caterpillars are food for a wide variety of wildlife, including other insects, spiders, frogs, toads, bats and birds. Night-flying adult moths form a major part of the diet of bats. Many of our most beloved songbirds eat both adult moths and their caterpillars, but the caterpillars are especially important for feeding nestlings. Without these moths, the dawn chorus of songbirds would nearly disappear from our forests.

You can help us find new species in Vermont and record and map all moths, rare or common. Take digital photographs and submit your observations to iNaturalist Vermont, a project of the Vermont Atlas of Life. There is much to discover about biodiversity right in our own backyard.

 

Black-and-yellow Lichen Moth (Lycomorpha pholus) sipping nectar from Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis). /© K.P. McFarland

Black-and-yellow Lichen Moth (Lycomorpha pholus) sipping nectar from Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis). /© K.P. McFarland

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Comments (2)

  1. Julie Hart says:

    Wow, Kent, awesome photos! I wish I was there to join you on your moth trapping nights!

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