A grant from Nebraska Game and Parks Watchable Wildlife program has enabled us to add several major moth groups to our website. With the assistance of Steve Spomer from UNL we (Jonathan Nikkila and myself) have been able to gather up records and specimens for Silkworm Moths, Sphinx (aka Hawk or Hummingbird) Moths and Underwing Moths for their inclusion.
Silkworm Moths are mostly (but not always) larger, colorful moths. They are generally present for short periods of time as adults do not feed, their only purpose being to find a mate and propagate the species. In addition, many are geographically restricted in our area, their distribution dependent on the presence/absence of their hostplants. Fourteen species have been found in Nebraska.
These moths range in size from large to relatively inconspicuous, some colorful, others drab. This group includes one of the most visible moths visiting our urban flowerbeds, the White-lined Sphinx. Forty-one species have been recorded from Nebraska, most being residents, but a fair number of strays from southern climes also being represented.
In Nebraska this group of moths (Genus Catocala in the Lepidoptera family Erebidae) is represented by 52 species. The group’s common name Underwing is derived from the colorful hindwing that is largely concealed by their cryptically marked top (fore) wing. When disturbed when they reveal their brightly colored hindwing which is thought to startle predators and allow the moth to escape. At rest these moths are often found on tree trunks where they blend in and are difficult to locate. These moths fly almost exclusively at night but can be attracted to lights or baits. Depending on species the larvae feed exclusively on one or a closely related species of woody plants. As such their distribution is largely limited by the presence of their hostplant. These moths are notoriously difficult to identify.
The addition of these moth groups opens up a whole new set of opportunities for citizen scientists. Check the distribution maps when you find one of these moths to determine whether or not it is a county record. If it is or if you are uncertain of its identity send us a photo and we will do our best to identify it. Understand that not every photo will have enough detail to be identified. Let us hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.