Interested in Moths

molanic(Zone 5 IL)March 14, 2014

This year I would like to branch out and start looking for moths at night. I have seen some of the day-flying ones, but now am looking into set-ups to attract and view/photograph the night flying ones in my yard.

I got the itch after looking over a really cool blog the past few days. I don't know if the creators ever post here or not. It is I don't even remember how I ended up there, but it is really inspiring. They bought a 450 acre old dairy farm in west central Wisconsin and for over 10 years have been converting it back to its more natural state.

They photograph and document all the varied wildlife there. On the right side of the page there is a section "Farm Inventory" with an amazing display of moths. I think they use a white sheet and black lights to attract and more easily photograph them. The "inventory" is really impressive.

I am also interested in what they are doing because they are in Buffalo county which is just west of where most of my extended family has lived for generations. My grandparents and great-grandparents were dairy farmers there. The dairy farm itself has been sold and is no longer operational. But, family members still own and live on much of the farmland and lease out fields to other farmers. It is really beautiful there and they want to preserve some of the land and stop it from being built up in the future. It would be wonderful to convert some of it back to a more natural state I think.

I got a little off topic there I think. :) Back to the moths. Do any of you have setups to attract moths and photograph them? I don't want to trap them or anything, just temporarily view them and try to get some photos.

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The moth and butterfly inventory at that farm is easily 100 times the species I could see here. Thanks for the link.

The moth photo setup you describe is pretty standard. Since they are backlit, I assume flash photography is used.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 11:13PM
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gyr_falcon(Sunset 23 USDA 9)

The farm blog is amazing! I hope you will share your photography progress with us, too. I don't have any good ideas, except to suggest asking the A Prairie Haven bloggers for additional details and tips. Good luck with your project.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 12:45AM
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molanic(Zone 5 IL)

Here is the page describing their setup. At the bottom they show two small led lights on brackets attached to the camera hot-shoe (you can use the tripod mount hole too I think). I love that idea because even if you used a flash the autofocus would not work well in that low of light. I would think a flash would scare them off more than a constant light too.

I was looking into it and was surprised how affordable those little lights are now. You can get one 36 led light with the adjustable mount for $25. You would need two of them for this type of setup to get even lighting on both sides. Plus it would have to be bright enough to override the bluish light from the black lights.

Then I saw a much larger 160 led light that is dimmable and comes with different colored diffusers for only $5 more. It attaches to the hotshoe and does not come with the bracket. I'm thinking the extra light would allow you to stand farther away. It might be helpful for photographing butterflies in the daytime too when the light is not that bright to get that shutter speed a bit faster or reduce shadows. One 160 led light is going to be brighter than two 30 led lights but maybe not provide as even of lighting. I might give the 160 a try just to see... it is not much of an investment at $30.

I will do anything to avoid using a flash. I have never figured out how to use the on camera flash to get results I am happy with.

I would love tips from anyone who has tried any of these methods. I'll be sure to post if I actually try this once the weather warms up a bit.

That blog and farm really are impressive. The section about how they prepped the fields where they show how they collected, cleaned, sorted, and sowed the seed is amazing too. They are apparently some very organized, dedicated, and hard-working people.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 7:03PM
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I just attended a lecture on Hawkmoth ecology at The Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve. The lecturer described National Moth week that is held every year. You might want to take a look at their web site!
Sounds like it would be right up your alley!

Here is a link that might be useful: National Moth Week

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 8:56PM
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molanic(Zone 5 IL)

Thanks! There was a lot of good info on there about attracting and photographing the moths. I don't know that I am quite ready to go to an official event at this point though. I'm more interested in seeing what I can attract to my own yard. I'm kind of like that with birds too. I get more excited seeing one new warbler in my yard than traveling to a known hot-spot where I can easily see lots of them.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 10:32AM
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sultry_jasmine_nights (Florida 9a)

I get a lot of hawk-moths in my yard. What attracts them the most seems to be night blooming jasmine (cestrum nocturnum), brugmansia, datura, and white moonvine (Ipomoea alba).

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 4:31PM
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Nicotia is another good nectar source and possible host for the Tomato Hornworm.
Some good host plants are honeysuckle, Viburnum, Virginia Creeper, Snowberry and of course Tomatoes (Nightshade will do as well)

Try Cestrum diurnum, or Day Blooming Jessimine. I attracted butterflies by the score c this Florida native. Oddly enough, predominantly male butterflies will nectar on this flower, as the nectar contains alkali that the males use as building blocks for sex pheromones. Even butterflies that don't normally come to flowers will hit this one.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 6:10PM
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Our White Lined Sphinx moths really go for the plainest Hostas on the market. Hoyas (Wax Flowers) will also attract lots of moths, but needs heat to grow and bloom. Bring in before frost.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 6:14PM
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