Jul 18 2015
A week ago this moth stood out at Oil Creek State Park with an impressive brown pattern on his white wings.
I sketched the moth in my notebook while Karyn Delaney took its picture (above). When I got home I found a tool to help me identify it: Discover Life’s moth ID Guide for Pennsylvania.
My search of the moth’s basic characteristics produced 62 answers (!) but I clicked through each pop-up until I reached one that was similar but not the same. The yellow-orange head was a useful clue.
LeConte’s Haploa moth (Haploa lecontei) is known to have a variable pattern. The photos below compare a plainer version to our own (super-magnified). BugGuide.net has this closeup of one that looks like ours.
John Lawrence LeConte was a famous 19th century entomologist from Boston who traveled the U.S. in search of bugs. Beetles were his specialty but he identified many other species as well. According to Wikipedia, he “described approximately half of the insect taxa known in the United States during his lifetime.” He was greatly admired in the scientific community.
When scientists name a new species they sometimes use a person’s name, either the name of someone they admire or someone connected to the discovery. Audubon admired LeConte and so named the sparrow, LeConte himself discovered the thrasher (someone else probably named it for him), and this moth was named for the same LeConte.
(photo with the green leaves Virginia creeper by Karyn Delaney. Photo on brown background from Wikimedia Commons)