All Stories

The Mystery of the Moth

This morning, an unusual bug caught the attention of Dale, one of our Customer Service Managers, while he was walking through the Ken Spencer Science Park. At the edge of the park’s pond, in stark contrast to the pale green sedge stalks, was a lean, dark insect with brassy wings and a bright mustard "nape" (though insects really don't have necks!). It seemed like an odd mash-up of a caddisfly and a moth.

He mentioned the mysterious creature to Rhoda, curator of the nature-focused Search: Sara Stern Gallery, who caught the bug and began checking ID books and guides. Initially, our moth seemed a match for the Virginia Ctenucha—a  moth normally found in eastern North America that hasn’t been reported west of the Rockies, but has been moving westward. This was very exciting. Could this be the first recording of such an advancing species? Spurred by that possibility, investigation continued. Soon enough, our research led us to the right place. Bugguide.net indicated that the Yellow-collared Scape Moth was a very similar species and provided the subtle characteristic differences that characterized our moth. Finding a Yellow-collared Scape Moth in our Science Park makes more sense, since they have a history of being collected and documented by academic institutions in BC.

"Moth" is not a true taxonomic distinction; it's a commonly used distinction for day-flying vs night-flying insects. Moth is in the order Lepidoptera, which is Latin for "scaly wing." The Yellow-collared Scape Moth is actually out and about during the day, so it is a diurnal species of moth and is a helpful pollinator. Their colouration could be a mimic of wasps and toxic beetles, which is useful for deterring predators. They seem to prefer feeding on Eupatorium flowers which contain toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids.

Do you look for cool and unusual bugs in your backyard? Report your findings! Projectnoah.org is a great site (and app) for citizen scientists to report sightings of species and log biodiversity in your neighbourhood.

Good luck on the bug hunt!
 

To learn more about pollinators like bees, butterflies and moths, check out the fun and educational activities available on our Resources website. Be sure to visit our buzzy bees at the Ken Spencer Science Park and Search: Sara Stern Gallery.