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Macro-Moth Study
Noel McFarland moths, moths, moths .... and other stuff!

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SOME POSSIBLE (perhaps valid?) REASONS for visiting this "Backyard" website
There are dozens of splendid moth-related websites already up and running (see "LINKS" for some of them). But each has its own special slant (or bias); this diversity is both valuable and enjoyable. Identification or "completeness" is a basic theme (or goal) at a majority of the sites -- but most definitely not at this one!....If the specimen you have just happens to be one of the (many) species that have appeared in one or more of my various "backyards", then yes, you may indeed secure a photo-based identification here; otherwise, no you will NOT!....You should be coming here for other reasons!!!
The primary UNDERLYING THEMES AT THIS SITE ARE: (1) More focused studies of specific small parcels of land within the larger natural habitats cited; (2) these observations extending over many years (in the case of Backyards No.1 and No.7), with the local macro-moth seasonal emergence periods summarized in the "phenograms". (3) Life history observations and (local) foodplant records are also included, if known to this writer, and credit is given where due, if the information has come from other locations or sources. (4) Time (hours) of adult emergence from the pupa, and any bias toward early morning (but still nocturnal) flight activity, will be recorded if apparent; also mentioned is any tendency toward diurnal activity in the adult stage. (5) Documentation of the typical resting posture assumed by the living adult is usually included, employing a self-descriptive (intuitive) terminology which I developed in South Australia back in the 1960's, and published in 1988: pg. 235 (pdf, 3.3MB, complete resting position terminology & classification). All the resting posture terms are summarized in one table in Appendix I on the last page of this pdf (pg. 243).
Another constant theme at this site is specimen quality: ONLY the best specimens (from any available series) have been used for illustration. Specimen quality matters (to me, anyway)!!.... Considerable time and effort, over the last six decades, has been expended in that direction. You will not find "radiator-rags," "killing-jar wrecks" or "beetle-churned trap-dregs" at this website (unless they were the only specimens that I had to choose from, which is rarely the case). As I do not run traps, "trap-fallout" will not be encountered here! There will be the occasional faded specimens depicted, where no recent (fresher) individuals are available. Obviously, every effort should be made to secure the very freshest (unfaded) and best-quality specimen(s) for publication purposes: There is no retracting the image of a worn or ancient faded "rag", once it has been published in some book or journal -- and is thus destined to become a permanent "eyesore" in the literature!....
There is a universal need for the inclusion of full data with every photo. This is (frustratingly) all-too-often completely LEFT OUT, even at the best of websites, and/or in even the best of available books....It does, indeed, take a little extra time (plus a mere smidgeon of extra "space"), to include ALL of the relevant data -- but it's worth its weight in gold to those who have purchased the publications. By "relevant data", I mean specifically: (1) to give the exact locality (country, state or province, county or shire, and mileage and direction (N., S., E., W., etc.) from a well-defined natural landmark, highway, or town, and the elevation (and no, I'm not talking about G.P.S. coordinates!); (2) to include the exact (complete) date of the photo -- the month being by far the most important part, the day next-most-important, and the year is usually the least important; (3) to mention the source -- "at uv. light", "at mud puddle"; "on oak trunk", etc., etc.; (4) to always include the collector's name; and, last but by no means least, (5) be sure to give the exact measurement (max. length) of every depicted larva or pupa (in mm.), and include the forewing length (LFW) for every depicted adult, if no scale is present in the photo (they rarely are in mine, which is intentional). (6) It is also useful to include the sex of depicted adults, when known with certainty. All of these bits of information should accompany each and every photo, appearing right beside, beneath, or opposite it (as captions) -- NOT "buried" out in the text, or in some distant "appendix".
With regard to the larval photos used at this website, I always strive to show (only) living larvae in their natural resting postures, and (usually) clinging to their chosen foodplants -- sometimes also depicted feeding or responding to disturbance. Every effort is made to photograph ONLY the "filled-out" larvae in any given instar -- never the newly-moulted (= head capsule huge in proportion to body size), OR the dull-colored pre-moults (with the old smaller head capsule about to be shed). These pre-moult and just-moulted intervals of development never represent the best larval appearance, or the "best" coloration. Ideally, larval photos should always include at least one good image that clearly depicts the front of the head capsule, as well as a good lateral view of the entire larva (including a side view of the head), and also a dorsal view, as would be seen when looking down upon the larva from directly above (there is often a unique mid-dorsal stripe or other dorsal markings). Pupal photos should (ideally!) also show three aspects: dorsal, lateral, and ventral (or, at the very least two: dorlat. & latven.). Any degree of surface shine (or powdery coating) on the pupal surface should always be faithfully reproduced in the photos, and can be diagnostic in many cases. And try to have at least one shot that shows a dorsal or ventral view of the pupal cremaster (spines or hooks at tip of tail) sharply in focus! [see McFarland (1988), pp.71, 75, 87, 113, 126, 192, 197, 251, 261, 266, 277, 283, 334, 345, 351, etc., etc.].
ALL of the foregoing have been constant underlying guidelines at this website, and define most of the subtle ways in which we attempt to be consistently somewhat "different" -- although rarely do ALL of these strivings for perfection totally come together under any single presentation of a moth!!.... "PROFILING" OF THE VARIOUS SPECIES DISCUSSED MIGHT BE A WAY TO CHARACTERIZE THIS APPROACH. Any unique feature(s) observed will be at least briefly mentioned (or sometimes discussed at greater length) in the column at the far right of the web-page. These miscellaneous commentaries may refer to ANY of the life history stages, but most often will relate to adult and/or larval behavior, or larval crypsis when at rest on the foodplant.
The great variability so often seen in adult moth colors and/or maculation (markings) is also mentioned, if really notable: see the "descriptograms". VARIABILITY is a frequently encountered phenomenon throughout the natural world, and is (typically!) a source of unending annoyance or frustration to those who have a robotic or purely "mechanistic" view of nature. In some instances, one would need an entire page of individual photos just to adequately depict the full range of variation (colors/patterns) in a single highly variable species! Well, good luck ever finding that in any available book(s)!! Always keep this reality firmly in mind, when trying to "force" your specimen to "match" the (single) illustration that appears in some book; more often than not this simply cannot be done (with reference to every last minute detail)....But, if you are very lucky, your specimen (and the exact one in the book) will indeed match perfectly! Also keep in mind the fact that published photos often depict old or faded museum specimens, that have no chance of "matching" the one you just caught last night!!....
There can be (potentially) a lot more to the study of living things than the mere reflex churning- out of keys, tables, graphs, charts, cladograms, or bar-codes (i.e. -- neat-'n-tidy pigeon-holes)....To the extent that any careful observer can (even slightly!) let go of these universal hidebound mechanistic approaches to the natural world, the frustration-levels (for some) will begin to subside, and interesting new channels of discovery will be permitted to reveal themselves (in spite of all the "higher" education that may already be deeply implanted)! [Further suggested readings, to assist in the (typically unpopular) mind-opening process, are: John Broomfield (1997), Alexander Skutch (many writings), Anthony Standen (1950), Lyall Watson (1973), and Wm. Morton Wheeler (1929)] Mostly, I suspect that any in-depth exposure to these authors would merely cause the robot s (victim's?) adrenalin to flow, and that very little of the (available) wisdom would be absorbed or taken the least bit seriously....(I do hope that this cynical prediction could someday turn out to be wrong!! To the extent that it does all will benefit, immensely.)....
Five Acres of Moths

A long-term study documenting the occurrence of more than 900 macro-moth species on 5 acres in lower ASH CANYON (oak/manzanita woodland and grassland ecotone, at 5170 ft. elevation, 13 mi. S. of Sierra Vista).



What to Expect at this Site

SOME POSSIBLE (perhaps valid?) REASONS for visiting this "Backyard" website

About the Backyard Concept

Motivations: Why Publish This Material?

Summarizing How These Projects Evolved

What is Being Collected?

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.



MONA #'s




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