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Seven Backyards
Moths...Moths...Moths...and their Habitats...and other stuff....
Several Long-Term Backyard
Studies in the U.S. and Australia

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Motivations: Why Publish This Material?
In many of the larger insect groups (moths included), our knowledge is extremely limited. For thousands of insect species, there is absolutely nothing known beyond the fact that the entity has, at some time in the past, been described and given a scientific name (in other words, at least it has a “handle”, to enable subsequent written or verbal communications about it!)....But many thousands of additional “new” (un-named) species still await even that minimal attention!....My usual approach to this common entomological dilemma is just to “dive in”, wherever I'm living, and begin to amass a voucher-collection of the local moth fauna encountered flying around Eventually, I'm able to learn the names of most of them, with plenty of help from various taxonomists or specialists, who are often the acknowledged experts of the day. [above: Theroa zethus larva on Euphorbia]

A large percentage of our southwestern MOTHS cannot be found in any book or field guide that currently exists....Thus, accurate identification (down to species-level) is often the first major hurdle. Until this can be accomplished, there is NO accurate way to communicate one's findings in published form. Hence the importance of consulting with other collectors or taxonomists, who are familiar with certain families or genera. In some instances, it may be discovered that no one is currently working on the particular group or genus that you are puzzling over....In such cases, a personal code-numbering system can be devised, to assist with the recording of data, while awaiting help (which may be decades or lifetimes in coming)!

Notarctia proxima male My first objective, in any “new” (to me) locality, is simply to try and discover which species are present there. Next, I attempt to identify all of them (to the extent that this is even possible), while continuing to observe and record information about their seasons of flight and life cycles. Often, the flight-period will prove to be only a very narrow “window ” in time—sometimes just a few nights, or at most, a week or two out of the entire year. Such flight-period information is rarely well documented in the moth literature, so it remains (has always been) one of my areas of consistent focus in any backyard study.

Attempts are also made to uncover various details regarding the early stages (egg/larva/pupa), which are mostly “unknowns”, at least for the majority of smaller western “macro”-moth species. And I always try to obtain accurate identifications of any previously unknown foodplants, by studying all available botanical books (see Ref. List), and/or through consultations with various professional plant taxonomists. Eventually, all of this interrelated information is consolidated into a format that can be shared with other interested parties—that small (but growing) cadre of persistent and dedicated researchers, who are gradually opening up this vast and fascinating frontier that still exists (untapped!), in or near many BACKYARDS across the nation (particularly in the West).

To even begin to study all of these little-known species in any greater depth, the researchers first need access to certain basic or “ground-breaking” information, of exactly the sort that it has long been my inclination to seek out and publish. Why have I spent a lifetime trying to discover and document thousands of esoteric, moth-related tidbits, that are of little or no interest to the average person?? Because, I was born with these interests, and it amuses me to continue to pursue them, as long as I am physically and mentally able to do so—the childhood fascination that never waned!! If more “explanation” of this mindset is needed, please go to the first quote from Thoreau, near the end of this section!

It has long been my passion to ferret out (and attempt to document) the fascinating “stories”, of the many secretive and beautiful SMALLER beings with whom we share this planet. No, they are not the attention-grabbing “charismatic megafuana” (or the unending parade-of-predators) that consistently hog about 95%(+) of the time devoted to mass-media nature programs on U.S. television; this fact alone is motivation enough for me!!! Most of my favorite subjects are merely viewed as “prey items” (or nuisances), and that is about the entire extent of their “significance” to the average person....To answer the two standard questions, most often asked: (1) What “good” are they??....Well, what “good” are you??? (Can you offer your life as a "prey-item", to feed some beautiful bird??); and (2) NO, I don't undertake these particular studies for financial gain; there isn't any in these kinds of pursuits! Notarctia proxima male This site has been created for those few who may actually find some of these hard-earned details of value or inspiration, in the hope that this will serve to pave the way for more in-depth future studies of these same moths and/or their fast-disappearing habitats....If that evolves, then my “mission” (at this website) will have been accomplished! Questions, name corrections, or any other feedback will always be welcomed at the following email: noel (AT) (Don't hold your breath awaiting a reply; if wanting ANY reply at all, be sure to include your phone number!)

UNDENIABLE FACT: Unfortunately, when mass computer-infatuation erupted, a much-needed corresponding increase in the number of hours per day did not magically transpire!! I often wonder (but rarely discern) if anyone else has even questioned or noticed this!!!! While all of the dutiful and unquestioning slavery insidiously escalates (as it will), but the infatuation begins to wane (as it probably will), this dilemma may become ever more obvious (hopefully), at least to some individuals—predictably those who are not totally mesmerized by the phenomenon(??).... BARRIERS, therefore, must sometimes be erected, if one wishes to remain on track, with certain types of time-consuming but low-tech interests (like mine!), and not just be swept away by this (nearly) worldwide, box-centered “technogaga” TSUNAMI. Is there more to life than being “connected” 24/7, relentlessly punching buttons, dutifully obeying commands....and drowning in "information"?? I have a very strong hunch there is. And we're well on the way to losing it!

SUMMARIZING A FEW OF THE ABOVE REMARKS (far more concisely than I could ever hope to do), here are three observations by H.D. THOREAU (quoted from the extensive anthology by E.W. Teale, 1962):

(1) “Each man's necessary path, though as obscure and (apparently) uneventful as that of a beetle in the grass, is the way to the deepest joys he is susceptible to; though he converses only with moles and fungi, and disgraces all of his relatives, it is no matter if he knows what is steel to his flint.” —Journal (18 Nov. 1857)       [I think Fabre would have agreed with this, and his life demonstrated it.]

(2) “The mass of men are very easily imposed upon. They have their runways, in which they invariably travel, and are sure to fall into any pit or box-trap set therein.” — Journal (28 Nov.1860)

[Relevance here ?—Computers, and the TOTAL, unquestioning, lemming-like infatuation with ALL things “techno” and “virtual” (this being the “box-trap”) — almost to the complete exclusion of the beautiful and fast-fading REAL (natural) world, upon which our very existence depends.] Now go to the Frank Hovore essays for more on this, and other closely related topics!

(3) “It is hard to have a Southern overseer ; it is worse yet to have a Northern one —but worst of all when you are yourself are the slave-driver! ” — Journal (1845-47)

[Relevance here?—Computer-based techno-zombification of FORMERLY aware, living beings, who once (not so long ago) were primarily immersed in the real world, and actually interacted (face-to-face) with other living things....]

M.K. GANDHI deserves the last word on all of this, as his remark is SO exceedingly relevant today:
(4) “THERE IS MORE TO LIFE THAN SPEEDING IT UP!” (He obviously saw the writing on the wall, because this remark was made more than half a century ago....By now, he must be really spinning in his grave!!....). One could also add (today) that there is (or should be) MORE to life than pushing buttons, “clicking” here-and-there, and meekly obeying commands.... (WATCH OUT! All of this is leading, inexorably, to a place where some of us may have no desire to end up!!....) I continue to be amazed (and depressed!) at how few of our "leaders" and "educators" seem to be even faintly aware of this—or dare to question the stampede in any way....
**** A recent (much-needed but very sad) BOOK also springs to mind (relevant to all of the above): Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder by RICHARD LOUV (2006) .... [ISBN: 10-1-56512-522-3]. This is an absolute must-read for those of today's parents, who truly have concerns about their children's future, with reference to the above discussed topics.... GET IT, BEFORE IT GOES OUT-OF-FASHION AND BECOMES “FORGOTTEN” (in our fad-driven, grasshopper-society) — as were the writings and warnings of P.R. Ehrlich (1970's)....

Footnote to the latter: Has anyone been pondering what's happening in Africa lately??? Go back and re-read what Ehrlich predicted for Africa, nearly 4 decades ago. (How much “more study ” is still “needed”??!....) The ostrich cartoon, gives a concise preview of the “response” (to the overpopulation nightmare) that we can almost certainly continue to anticipate from our brilliant “leaders ” on Spaceship Earth!   [See also Ivey, 1995.]
Seven Backyards



Moths and Memories


Where Are the Specimens Now?


Background and Introduction


About The Backyard Concept

Motivations: Why Publish This Material?

Summarizing How These Projects Evolved

About the Photographs

Bias in Photo Representation

Moth Identifications

Taxonomy & Classification (the names)

About Moth Families & Subfamilies

Some Thoughts About Moth Surveys

Abundance Ratings Defined (8 Categories)

About the Flight Periods

Interpretation of the Flight-Phenograms

Miscellaneous Comments on Black Lights

Peculiarities of Moth Activity

Prime Time = Full-Moon-Plus-Ten

How To Obtain Perfect (Moth) Specimens

To Kill Or Not To Kill??

Beating or Sweeping for Larvae


Miscellaneous Tidbits Dept.