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Some Thoughts About Moth Surveys
Some tips for those who would undertake moth survey work: There are numerous possible approaches to carrying out these kinds of investigations. Some researchers in this field travel widely throughout a region, attempting to collect in as many differing habitats as can be reached. Obviously, they will encounter far more species than will the individual (like this one) who studies in depth only one small plot of land for several consecutive years (or decades)! But, both approaches reveal unique insights, and have their particular values.
To facilitate data-gathering during the early stages of such a project, some type of code- numbering system, for recording the many dozens of (at first) "unknown" species, always serves a useful purpose. Devise your own personal numbering-system, for application to each apparently distinct species encountered (such as, "NOC.45", "NOC.46", GEO.22", etc., etc.). Always be a "splitter" at this stage! It is much easier to later combine the records of two entities under one name, than it is to try and separate into two, a set of records originally (and mistakenly!) thought to apply to only one species when, in fact, two (look-alike) species were involved.... Eventually, and with plenty of help from available publications and living specialists, actual names can start to be matched up with the code-numbers.... The long term objective, of course, would be to accurately identify as many of the collected species as possible. In regions where the fauna is well known (or better known), this process will happen faster (and much more easily) than it will in remote or poorly known localities.
For most of the more abundant species in this location, I have been able to record various details regarding phenology (see Glossary) and annual occurrence (exactly when during the year each species first appears, reaches its "peak", and then finally tapers off), as well as its relative abundance in relation to other species found flying at the same time, in the same locality (see "Abundance Ratings"). Such details are almost impossible to gather for a vast region, although this certainly can be attempted when one's focus remains centered on just one or two well-defined smaller location(s).
Some species of moths fly primarily (sometimes only!) during the latest hours of the night particulary certain sphingids, saturniids, lasiocampids, arctiids, noctuids, notodontids, and geometrids esp. the green ones. These early morning fliers may be entirely missed, if you are not running your lights during their "preferred" hours of flight! This often overlooked time-slot (primarily from about 11 P.M. to 4 A.M.) is regularly neglected by collectors who would rather sleep during those hours, OR who must face a long drive home! Running an all-night TRAP of course overcomes this problem. Unfortunately, trapping also commonly results in inferior specimens (sometimes downright tatty)! But this is often the only way that a collector can sample all of the hours of darkness.
In my studies, NO trapping is ever undertaken, although I do often run the lights from dusk to dawn on "good" nights, getting up early to collect any specimens of interest (just before the birds arrive at the "buffet")! Being a resident collector enables this luxury. Upon rare occasions, I will permit certain visiting researchers (who are contributing to our knowledge, not just amassing personal "stamp collections"!) to run light-traps here, as I know that worthwhile studies will result from their takings.... The reason I never run traps myself is because I have no desire to perpetrate the mass-killing that this involves. Everything falling into the trap DIES, yet only a relatively few (often battered) specimens are typically selected from the pile of dead bodies. ALL the rest are just dumped! Numbers involved are regularly in the hundreds (sometimes thousands) of moths killed, per trap, per night.... This, apparently, is of no concern to most "trapping collectors", who never seem to give it a second thought....
My collecting is always minimal and very selective typically, only a few perfect specimens are taken, on a night when many hundreds (even thousands!) of moths may arrive at my (several) uv. light-stations. My constant focus now is to always be on the lookout for new records, or any "new" extensions of the (already recorded) flight-seasons, for each one of the species represented in my card-file. These date extensions get added to the cards whenever they are encountered. The flight-periods shown on the cards (and now converted to this website) are thus "growing" and changing cumulative records, representing a summation of all the years since this study began (1979 to the present).
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
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
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS & DETERMINATIONS
GLOSSARY & ABBREVIATIONS + SYMBOLS USED
Miscellaneous Tidbits Dept.
SUPERFAMILIES AND SUBFAMILIES
A FEW GENERIC SYNONYMS
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