After a brief overview of current Southern Piedmont Chapter business and upcoming events, Dr. Larry Mellichamp gave a mini lesson on what was blooming — rue anemone, bloodroot and tag alder — and how day length (rather than temperature) is the important determining factor for the blooming of many native plants. He noted as well that most winter-blooming plants in the Piedmont are exotic introductions.
Next we welcomed Lenny Lample, Natural Resources Coordinator for Mecklenburg County. Mr. Lampel presented a program packed full of interesting and entertaining information on moths: “Discoveries in the Darkness.”
Here are a few of his points from my notes:
- The easiest way to tell the difference between moths and butterflies is to examine their antennae. Butterfly antennae have little “clubs” on the tips. Moth antennae can be quite variable, from filiform to plumose, but will not have these enlargements at the tips.
- Moths are important pollinators. Many are specialists, meaning they need one particular plant or genus of plants in order to feed and reproduce. Sometimes the plants also need a particular moth in order to produce seeds. Such is the case with Yucca species.
- Because moth caterpillars are an important food for birds, their decline can precipitate a decline in bird populations as well.
- In addition to being important pollinators, moths (the larvae in particular) play an important role in decomposition.
- There are approximately 150,000 species of moths in the world, 11,500 in North America, 3,000 species in North Carolina, and as many as 1,000 species in your own backyard in the Carolina Piedmont.
- To observe moths you can set up a light behind a sheet and turn it on at night. Black lights or mercury vapor lights work best. To attract even more species, put out some “moth bait,” a mixture of bananas and molasses.
- In the daytime, look for moths resting on tree bark, or find their caterpillars on or under leaves.
- Moth ID may be quite difficult requiring dissection to examine the genitalia. (!) But often it is straightforward; a good field guide will be useful. Try Peterson’s Field Guide to Moths which shows the moths in live positions (rather than splayed and flat).
Thank you, Lenny, for agreeing to speak to our group! We all enjoyed it very much and learned a lot too.
March meeting: Join us as Dr. Larry Mellichamp presents, “Early American Ecology and Early American Botany” — in costume! Sunday, March 12, Reedy Creek Nature Center, 2:00. RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org