2nd Annual Moth Night
July 27, 2013
Location: Elyria Canyon Park, Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
The Mount Washington Homeowners Alliance partnered with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority and What’s That Bug? on the second annual Moth Night on the evening of Saturday, July 27 in Elyria Canyon Park. Julian Donahue, retired lepidopterist from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and Mount Washington Homeowners Alliance President Daniel Marlos co-hosted the evening. The night began with Julian giving a crowd of approximately 50 excited participants some scientific background on moths and their place in the complex ecosystem of plants and animals, including significant predators. Julian also explained why moths are attracted to lights and discussed the black light and mercury vapor lights being used to attract the moths.
Once the sun set and darkness descended, the creatures of the night began to emerge, and the crowd was thrilled as the sighting of a pair of Great Horned Owls perched in a dead walnut tree and the crowd was mesmerized by the nighttime web building activities of a large nocturnal orb weaving spider. Then the artificial lights began to attract a variety of small moths and other insects, and excited began to mount among the dozen youngsters, their parents and other adults present at the event.
Though the larger moths that were hoped for including Sphinxes and the Black Witch never materialized, a wealth of small and colorful moths representing the families Tineidae, Tortricidae, Pyralidae, Noctuidae, Acrolophidae and Geometridae. Of especial note was a beautiful tortricid moth with the metallic band across the forewing, the Filbertworm Moth (Cydia latiferreana). The larvae feed inside acorns (small holes in hollow acorns are where the adults emerged), Catalina Cherries (present in Elyria Canyon) and quite possibly on SoCal black walnut nuts, although this may not have been documented yet. Another tiny gem was a small pyralid, Dicymolomia metalliferalis, that held its wings with their double staggered row of silver-crowned black spots in a tent-like manner over the body. The larvae are reported to feed in the seedpods of lupines.
Julian and Daniel look forward to hosting additional nighttime events in Elyria Canyon Park to further expose the curious public to the wealth of life that abounds in one of our local open, natural habitats.