The East Texas Natural History Collection
The East Texas Natural History Collection

Sunday, September 2, 2012

 

The East Texas Natural History Collection's National Moth Week Lighting Event

 

Moth Lighting near Quitman

 

On Saturday July 28, 2012 the staff and research associates of the East Texas Natural History Collection at Jarvis Christian College hosted a public event in conjunction with the National Moth Week celebration. The event was hosted on the Brad and Liz Soutendijk property near Quitman, Texas. The Soutendijk's are longtime area residents and well known for their conservation and habitat preservation activities. This property has several unique features including a pitcher plant bog, sandy land prairie and an artesian spring fed lake.

The Moth Lighting rig with mercury vapor and black light fluorescent lamps.

The Soutendijk Property:

 

This unique parcel of land is a relict throwback to earlier times in Texas. It contains naturally occurring stands of pitcher plants and Azaleas that have survived every single drought for the last 10,000 years. The secret to their survival is the land itself and the presence of groundwater and an artesian spring that is reliable even in deep drought conditions. The flora has survived all these intense droughts on this land, where the flora in surrounding areas have not. These plants are not seen in any other parts of the surrounding counties - this is truly a unique habitat and one that is precious to Liz and Bart Soutendijk. So precious that the land is held in trust by The Nature Conservancy and the Soutendijk's to ensure that it will not be developed or ruined.

 

The Event:

 

The event was open to the public and was posted on the National Moth Week website in the event section, as well as being promoted to local chapters of the Texas Master Naturalists, the Native Plant Society, Quitman Garden club and some families who home school their children. The event kicked off at 8:30 PM with a talk by Dr. Will Godwin, Director of the ETNHC, describing the Soutendijk property and educating the 30 or so people in attendance about why moths are distracted (not attracted) to light. Bob Nuelle, Jr., Research Associate in Lepidoptera at the ETNHC, then described the nights activities, the mission of the ETNHC and equipment in use.

Sergio Barraza helps setting up the moth lighting rig.

The Equipment:

 

The set-up for the night included 2 complete Moth Lighting rigs. Once placed at a high point in the prairie area and the other on the path in the forested border between the lake and the prairie. Each rig featured a 175W Mercury vapor light and a black light fluorescent light source. These lights were set to reflect onto a vertical white sheet to give the incoming insects a place to land and be observed. There were some Cornell drawers of insects from the ETNHC and Nuelle collection on hand for visitors to observe. At the lighting stations Dr. Will Godwin, Dr. James Goodwin and Mr. Nuelle focused on answering questions, pointing out new insect visitors and generally educating the guests.

 

Guests:

 

The guests ranged in age from very young children to seniors. There were members from a number of local organizations, including the East Texas Master Naturalists, the Tyler Chapter of the Native Plant Society, and the Quitman Garden Club.

Xylophanes tersa Copyright 2003 - 2012 Robert J. Nuelle, Jr.

Volunteers:

 

In addition to the invaluable assistance of Bart and Liz Soutendijk, Elizabeth Nuelle and Sergio Barraza assisted at the lighting station - collecting specimens, setting up and tearing down equipment, and answering questions. The presence of Dr. James Goodwin, Director of the ETNHC and a renowned Horsefly expert was a great addition to the event.

Bob Nuelle, Jr. getting ready for our lighting event.

Observations:

 

The lights attracted a wide variety of native insects. The vast majority of these insects were flies, small midges, beetles and true bugs. The moths were amply represented by swarms of small moths with a wingspread of less than one inch. These Micro-Lepidoptera were collected in hopes of locating any species that are unique to the Soutendijk property.

 

There were also some wonderful large moths that were attracted in to the sheets. Most notable  among the large moths were the Sphinx or Sphingidae species. The first large Sphinx Moth into the sheets was the Azalea Sphinx Moth - Darapsa choerilus (Cramer, [1780]). This beautiful moth came in pretty quickly and was soon followed by another Sphinx moth called the Tersa Sphinx Moth Xylophanes tersa (Linnaeus, 1771). This little sleek beauty looks like a swept wing fighter plane and flies like one too.

Luna Moth - Actias luna caterpillars
None of the Giant Silkworm Moths made an appearance at the lights. On the previous evening the group from ETNHC caught a beautiful Female Luna Moth Actias luna (Linnaeus, 1758). This moth was kept alive for the event on Saturday - and in the interim it began laying eggs. These ova were deposited in its envelope and will be reared by Bob Nuelle, Jr. When the caterpillars have reached the stage where they spin up their cocoons they will be distributed to local classrooms and interested home schoolers so the final stage of their life cycle can be observed by students - see Blog Post.

Overall, the evening was a great success. We were able to share our love for these nocturnal creatures with a whole new audience. We hope that they came away with the same sense of wonder that we experience every time we turn on those lights.
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Breaking News:

ETNHC and International Journal of Entomology and Zoology Studies Announce Partnership

 

The East Texas Natural History Collection is proud to be the first North American Host and partner with the International Journal of Entomology and Zoology Studies. The Journal of Entomology and Zoology Studies  is a peer reviewed international Open Access Journal which is abstracted in various reputed databases. The Journal provides a platform with the aim of motivating students and personnel in all fields of Zoology.

The Journal publishes review and research articles in all fields of Zoology.

See Further details here:       In Print

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