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Asheville Natural is site rapidly getting out of control. The guide to the native wildflowers of the southern Appalachians began way back in 1998 - now I am adding moths, frogs, and just about everything else that walks, crawls, flies, runs, or jumps.

For this moth page, I have received particular help from the following: http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/ ESPECIALLY the North Carolina moth identification coordinator who contributes to that site, and ESPECIALLY the North American Moth Photographers Group site produced by the Mississippi Entomological Museum at Mississippi State U., at http://mothphotographersgroup.msstate.edu/ . You should also check out Bob Patterson's site at http://mothphotographersgroup.msstate.edu/Files/Live/BP/BPsite/Identified4x8.shtml . (Mr. Patterson is also the current webmaster for the Moth Photographers Group site.) If you're a giant moth and Saturniidae fanatic, also visit Bill Oehlke's site at http://www3.islandtelecom.com/~oehlkew/.



(Keep scrolling for the pics, they're there!)

See also: Cicadas , Frogs (Spring Peepers) and Insects

Help me with my UFO's!

Ever since I was a kid I've been fascinated by butterflies and moths.  I love to turn my porch light on and just "join the swarm", looking to see who's visiting tonight. I can safely say that after 10 years in the Asheville NC area, nearly all the giant silkworm moths have been regular visitors to my back porch. Keep your porch light on from May onward, and you will see Lunas, Regals, Imperials, IOs, Cecropias, Tulip-Tree Silkmoth, Promethea, and the biggest moth native to the U.S - the Polyphemus moth.

September 7, 2009: I suspected this wet year would be promising for a fall crop of moths. These are the ones who are "children" of the ones that emerged in the spring. This night,  a Luna moth appeared. By the time  saw it the next day, it was rather beaten up and didn't make for a good pic. But I've got the porch light burning, in case I see another one tonight. A very large underwing also appeared.

I spent most of June & July photographing and collecting. I will spend the dark winter evenings working on identifying and making more photos.

June 28, 2009: The moths at my back porch light have been scant up until the past week - now there's a veritable population explosion. I'm beginning to see Io, Giant Leopard, and several Sphinx species. I'll be keeping my eyes, notebook and camera lens open and will keep posting updates this year - you can count on it!


Polyphemus moth  

Polyphemus moth - July 3, 2009. Taking pictures of these has become a bit like taking pictures of my cats - just tooo easy. But this year, I took time to take photos from as many angles as I possibly could, trying to get closeups of underside, legs, face, hind wings, "eyes" etc. I don't think I'll ever have to take a picture of an Antheraea polyphemus again - unless I happen to locate a female one! For documentation purposes, this male arrived at my back porch light on July 3, 2009 in Weaverville NC. These are live photos. (More environmental details at the bottom of this page.) Its wingspan when this picture was taken was 14.5 cm. Its body length is 3.5 cm. I have oodles of detail pics, way too many to post on this poor old decrepit webpage.

Polyphemus moth  

2008 seemed to be a "middling" year. There were lots of moths but I saw only a few of the giant silkworms.

In 2007 the weather was not happy for the moths - we had a late April hard freeze that killed off a lot of things, not just moths but devastating the fruit tree crops in North Carolina.

moth whisperer    
Luna moth  

And then of course, there are the luna moths, Actias luna. Do you know of ANY kid who has seen these in a guide book and NOT been smitten by the desire to see one? All I can say is, they are more spectacular in real life than in any drawing or photo you will ever see in a book.

The tricky part about loving these giant moths is a desire to see them, and at the same time see them continue their existence.

If you do what I do - leave a porch light on - most of the giant silkworm moths of the eastern U.S. can be viewed.  Resist the temptation to capture them. We have no need of additional scientific specimens, and they are hard to preserve. The equipment and chemicals needed to do the job right are hard to obtain. Enjoy them when you see them, and revel in their truly ephemeral beauty - here tonight, gone tomorrow. But with non-interference you can be guaranteed of seeing them again next year.

Update September 1 2008: We saw a newly emerged Luna Moth (male I believe) at our porchlight on 9/1/08. Good news - the weather has favored a second brood this year. Hurray!

Io Moth June 2008  

Io Moths - The female on the left (06/17/08) and the male below (06/22/08). The male on the right I found, already expired. He's looking pretty ragged but at least this shows how flashy they are, with their underwing eyespots. It is believed that prominent spots on moths are there to distract potential predators, such as birds. The birds will go for the spots rather than vital body parts. I've definitely seen moths with their underwings severely damaged, still getting around.

Male Io Moth 062208   Male Io Moth with eyespots
Imperial Moth male July 2009  

July 13 2009 - Imperial Moth (Eacles imperialis) - another one of the "Giant Silkworm" moths of the family Saturniidae, subfamily Citheroniinae. I can usually count on seeing at least a few of these each year. In 2009, July 13th was my first spotting. These are live photos - I was able to get a huge volume of pictures then safely let it go. Its wingspan was 11.0 cm, body length 4.9 cm, and the wing length (taken from where the wing joins the thorax to the tip) was 5.5 cm. Male, as far as I can tell.

Imperial Moth male July 13 2009  

Underside of the male Imperial Moth.

Acontia Bird Dropping Moth from side  

Identification aided by the NC moth coordinator at ButterfliesAndMoths.org. I had thought it was an Acontia, but these two picures are of the Beautiful Wood Nymph, Eudryas grata. Acontia and Eudryas moths are sometimes called "bird dropping" moths, for obvious reasons. Sure, they have mastered the art of disguise - who would want to eat a bird dropping? But when you see them in person you will definitely remember the name, Beautiful Wood Nymph.

Acontia Bird Dropping Moth from top    
Moth eggs 061708 unidentified  

Picture of moth eggs taken 06/17/08. I have no idea what moth they came from - "possibly" the Beautiful Wood Nymph above (and I truly mean, only possibly - because of where I saw the moth, the eggs, and their proximity in time and place, all of which signifies nothing.) But I thought the picture was worth including because of their own inherent beauty - like little Tahitian pearls.

07/04/09 - a strange note. I just discovered a fresh patch of eggs in almost exactly the same place, same formation, except they are pearly white. Each no more than 1/4 millimeter wide. They  had to have been laid this afternoon or early evening.

UFO Grammia questionable  

June 30, 2009: I absolutely could NOT figure out what this one was - I owe major thanks to the webmaster at the North American Moth Photographers Group site produced by the Mississippi Entomological Museum at Mississippi State U., http://mothphotographersgroup.msstate.edu/.

This is Ecliptopera atricolorata, commonly called a Dark-Banded Geometer moth (see Geometridae: Larentiinae: Hydriomenini at the above-mentioned site). You'd think something this spectacular would be easy... not! It just flew in the door, landed on my black leather purse looking fabulous daarling, then I managed to coax it onto a sheet of paper - but I wasn't able to "toy" with it for different angles, hind wings, etc. This obsession can be so frustrating :-)

Grammia questionable  

All I can give are rough measurements - wingspan of 3 cm and body length about 1.5 cm.

I had trouble identifying it because oddly enough, I hadn't seen (or noticed or recognized) Geometers before. If I had, I would have recognized it very quickly by the unique wing pattern. Note the large, almost-square black rectangle that begins at the edge of the forewing with no border at the edge of the wing - then the prominent roundish patch just next to it at the inner margin. The shape and markings of the body are also good indicators.

Manduca rustica possibly  

Again, with the help of the NC moth coordinator at www.ButterfliesAndMoths.org, an injustice of misidentification has been corrected as of June 2009. These three pictures are of a Carpenterworm, Prionoxystus robiniae. It's a rather large moth (about 3 cm long) I photographed on 6/15/08. They are regular visitors in the WNC mountains, are very friendly, and make lovely, if temporary, jewelry :-)

Another Manduca rustica   Manduca rustica possibly
Small-Eyed Sphinx, Paonias myops, 072308  

Small-Eyed Sphinx - Paonias myops, common throughout the eastern U.S. but I had not seen one before 2008. In person they are large and spectacularly colored. This one measured approx. 2.5 cm in body length and from wingtip to wingtip, not outstretched, was 3.5 cm.

I am now very confident about the identification, after researching it further - see Opler, Paul A., Kelly Lotts, and Thomas Naberhaus, coordinators. 2009. Butterflies and Moths of North America. Bozeman, MT: Big Sky Institute. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/ (Version 06.28.2009).

Ultronia Underwing  

Underwings - there are many, many "Underwing" moths out there. The common name is very apt - they are very dull brown until they spread their wings. This one seems to be common for my area, and I believe I've managed to positively identify it as the Ultronia Underwing, Catocala ultronia.

Giant Leopard Moth  

Giant Leopard Moth (Ecpantheria scribonia) - 06/22/08 - Obviously this guy or gal (not determined) suffered a bit of wing-beating, but again, I don't pin down live specimens. I found this one 'as is.' I think they are absolutely stunning! In 2009 I've been seeing quite a few in late June, more than average I'd say.

Rosy Maple Moth  

Rosy Maple Moth - a very common visitor in our area, in fact considered a pest by some arborists. But it sure captures your attention when you find one. Though not very large, the Rosy Maple Moth (Dryocampa rubicunda) is in the same family as the giant silkworms and royal moths: Saturdniidae.


UFO's - Unidentified Flying Objects (updated July 5 2009):


June 30, 2009: I am sure it is a Ceratomia, "probably" a Waved Sphinx, Ceratomia undulosa, male as far as I can tell.

I took a lot of photos but it was a very active moth,and I was unable to get photos of the underside, hind wings and side body before I had to let it take off again.

For documentation purposes, same location as per below. This is a "Live" picture. Body length: 4.4 cm. Wing length: 4.7 cm. Wing span at rest (as seen) 6.5 cm tip to tip. Hind wings have two dark grey somewhat indistinct bands. The sides of the body - hidden below the wings - have one row of strong grey-bluish oblique bands against a creamy yellow background, with a smaller second row just below the wing juncture. The top of the body (its back) have dark colored bands  - I did not see the bright banding typical of Manduca Sphinx moths.

Anisota Oakworm moth, species not sure yet  

This is an Oakworm moth, genus Anisota, "probably" Anisota virginiensis (thanks R.D.), but I wasn't vigilant enough to take a lot more photos to be absolutely sure. Its body length is "approximately" 2 cm. Photo taken on 6/22/08 in Weaverville, Buncombe County, NC in deep oak-beech-maple forest at 2400' elevation. I should have known better, and taken more photos. I ignored my own advice, assuming that it would be easy to identify based on the markings. Never, ever assume that! If you are trying to identify a moth, take as many observations and photos as you can!

Leuconycta diptheroides, Lichen moth  

A Lichen Moth - Lichen moths can be awfully tricky because there are sooo many of them. With the help of the moth coordinator at MothsAndButterflies.org we're labeling this one as Leuconycta diphtheroides.

Ash Sphinx, Manduca jasminearum  

Ash Sphinx - A UFO until helped out by - you
guessed it - R.D. the NC moth identification coordinator at MothsAndButterflies.org who identified it as Manduca jasminearum. This picture was taken 6/22/08, I wish I had more photos of it.




A note about my environment - I live in a house deeply embedded in woods at about 2400' feet elevation. The woods surrounding my house consist of beech, maple, oak, a few tulip trees, cherries, and dogwoods. Lots of native spicebush in the undergrowth. Vines include Virginia creeper, grape species, non-native honeysuckle and non-native bittersweet. Very little sunshine reaches the forest floor in the summer. Normally somewhat wet in spring and dry in summer. I don't know much of anything about moth habitat - except that from experience, apparently this is a good place for them. This is a non-profit site, created and maintained with love. All information contained on this site is based upon personal observation. All photos are my own, with a few exceptions (proper attributions noted.)

A note on the nomenclature (naming conventions) on this site: Scientific names and classifications are constantly being argued and changed, and it drives me nuts. Although I use many different sources for knowledge, for naming consistency  I  use the  "Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas" by Radford, Ahles and Bell, 1968 edition. This book is a well-established authority for the plants of our region and I've been using it for years. If for some reason I must use a different source for a particular plant, I will make note of it within the descriptive text. Don't like it? Tough!

Fiona Dudley
113 Pristine Lane
Weaverville NC 28787


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