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Macro-Moth Study
Noel McFarland moths, moths, moths .... and other stuff!
BACKYARD 7 — FIVE ACRES OF MOTHS
SOUTHEASTERN ARIZONA
in the SE. HUACHUCA MOUNTAINS,
COCHISE COUNTY (HEREFORD DISTRICT)

homemoth familiesmona #'s seasonal chartsmaps linksspecimen galleryspecimen records << previousarticles next >>
Taxonomy & Classification (the names)
TAXONOMY (see Glossary) is an art as much as it is an inexact science! It merely reflects the personal opinions (and inclinations) of the acknowledged "experts" of the day. And, as new information on the countless thousands of species of insects (or plants) accumulates, to become ever more detailed and refined, much shuffling of generic names (and other higher groupings) will inevitably take place.... Whatever the current "expert's" published classification may be, rest assured that it will probably be challenged and/or changed by others who come along later all of them building their own hierarchies (and opinions) upon the diverse foundations provided by earlier workers.... It will never get much "better" than that, so don't hold your breath!!.... And, don't make the painful mistake of allowing certain "favorite" names to become rigidly lodged in your brain.... Sooner-or-later, many of them will have to be altered, as our knowledge expands regarding the "true" relationships (kinships) of the many thousands of distinct species out there!!.... In this way, a more refined (more "accurate") understanding of the various plant or insect groups is gradually evolving.... (science in action). Amongst the taxonomists or systematists, there have always been two primary camps: Group One (the "Splitters") put most of their efforts into seeing & seeking the DIFFERENCES between related species, whereas Group Two (the "Lumpers") put most of their efforts into seeing & seeking the SIMILARITIES between related species!

Above: Splitters nightmare, Lumpers delight
Thus, as might be expected, taxonomists rarely agree!! But all of them have access to various scientific journals, in which they may publish their own (current) opinions.... The "ideal" (rarely attained) is to attempt to strike a balance between "splitting" and "lumping", and then to produce a new or revised classification that includes a reasonable blending of both approaches.... (Good luck with that!).... As stated above, taxonomy (even as practiced today) is as much an art as it is a science. None of it should ever be taken as gospel, for it is constantly evolving. It can all-too-easily degenerate into a (rigid) religion, which of course must be "defended".... Tiresome (and utterly predictable) battles are then the guaranteed boring outcome, as each hidebound camp dogmatically defends its viewpoint and nothing NEW ever gets learned!!!.... Best approach?? Just perch on the fence, remain open-minded, and take in the show (all-the-while learning from it)!.... And then, go ahead and adopt whatever the classification that most appeals to your own inclinations (splitter vs. lumper). And enjoy it while it remains in vogue.... Realize that all these names, as applied to the many thousands of moth species "out there", are simply handles that provide a workable way to develop relatively "accurate" communications between the dozens of specialists studying the thousands of insects (or plants, etc.) that exist! If we can't be relatively certain about the correct identity of a particular species, then there is simply no way to accurately report upon it via publication, and the whole exercise becomes quite meaningless! HENCE THE IMPORTANCE OF TAXONOMY, AND THE HARD-WORKING (under-funded and under-appreciated) TAXONOMISTS, who struggle to provide us with these "handles", that we may more clearly communicate our findings to other workers in this field and, at the same time, be relatively certain that all interested parties know precisely which species, out of the vast array, is the one that is being discussed!!

So, all of those names, perhaps at first overwhelming to newcomers to this field, really are important to seek out and verify as accurately as possible, particularly for the sake of reliable publication. Beyond that, we should NOT become too rigidly attached to certain "favorite" names, but instead, just try to GET ON WITH THE FUN OF SIMPLY OBSERVING AND DOCUMENTING THESE MOSTLY UNKNOWN CREATURES THAT SHARE (PARTS OF) OUR PLANET WITH US --- MANY OF THEM RIGHT IN OUR OWN BACKYARDS! Anyone with a real interest (and an eye for detail) can easily discover new information to contribute. Absolutely no institutional degrees are "required" for studies of this kind. (In fact, they can be a hinderance.).... JUST GET OUT THERE, FOCUS YOUR EYES, AND RECORD WHAT YOU ARE FINDING! And then, share it with the rest of us....
Five Acres of Moths
www.fiveacresofmoths.org

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).

Dedication

Introduction

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

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS & DETERMINATIONS

PHOTO CREDITS

REFERENCES

GLOSSARY & ABBREVIATIONS + SYMBOLS USED

Miscellaneous Tidbits Dept.

SUPERFAMILIES AND SUBFAMILIES

A FEW GENERIC SYNONYMS

MONA #'s

SEASONAL CHARTS

EXTERNAL LINKS

MAPS

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