[Tweeters] Be A Better Mother

jeff gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Sun Jul 21 12:20:16 PDT 2013

While having bragged about being 'One Bad Mother' in the past, I'm trying to improve myself.

This summer has been pretty good for moths lately, with lots of warm calm nights. About two weeks ago my daughter woke me up around two o'clock in the morning because there was some weird noise going on outside the window, like some sort of distressed creature. My guess was a wounded rat (lots of rats in this neighborhood), but I never did find out.

Going outside on the street though, I was somewhat startled by brilliant streaks of light beneath the streetlight on the nearby corner, like mini comets zooming by. "What the....", I thought. Walking down there for a closer look, I discovered the source of this light show. Moths. Yes it was just moths, but some pretty big ones. Under the intense vapor light illumination, and viewed thru my bleary eyes (I just got woken up at two in the morning!), it seemed somewhat hallucinogenic. I've heard about that sort of thing.

Anyway, as my eyes got a bit less bleary, one of the moths looked about the size of a Swallowtail Butterfly! Getting excited, I was headed back to the house for my binocs, when I was startled again by giant moths just outside my front door! Huge, with wingspans of several feet! This could've been the moment when, like in a movie such as 'Mothra' that beautifully tacky Japanese monster movie featuring a Godzilla- sized moth, I ran screaming like a young Japanese girl, into my house.

Luckily for everyone at home, I realized that I was just seeing the projected shadows of largish moths close to the street light near the house - sort of a shadow-puppet projector deal. It was a pretty cool urban phenomenon though.

Moving right along, by the time I got back to the corner with my binocs, the big moth was gone. Polythemus maybe? I don't know. The moths casting giant shadows on the sidewalk were probably some sort of Underwing moth, which had been coming to our night light at the kitchen window all week. One conveniently croaked inside on the windowsill.

Snooping on the internet, I stumbled upon a great way to become a better Mother. It's a website called Pacific Northwest Moths (http://pnwmoths.biol.wwu.edu), which I hadn't seen before. An excellent site, with super high-def photos of lots of moths - I think they said about 1200 NW species.

Just scanning the photos, I was able to identify our influx of underwing moths, as Noctua pronuba, a non-native species that has rapidly spread across North America. I'm still surprised at the number of cool bugs I see around town, and out in the county, that are introduced. I guess with the number of introduced plants we have, and with increasing globalization, I shouldn't be surprised.

On a bird note: I was driving in downtown Everett just the other day, when I spotted a moth in mid-daylight. That was a bad move on it's part, because an English Sparrow fluttered down from it's perch on a streetlight and nailed it right out of the air above the city traffic.
The sparrow's form, unlike the smoother bug catching techniques of swallows, waxwings, or even Starlings, was clunky but effective!

Jeff Gibson
trying to be a better mother in
Everett Wa

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