Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Round Tuit

I've been holding onto this photo since last September, waiting till I got around to searching BugGuide for a match. It's a moth that I found on the wall by our door in late afternoon.

The wing pattern echoes the feathery antennae motif.

Enough procrastinating! I spent the evening on it tonight. And after scanning all the "white moths" (2933 moths) and all the moths with a mention of feathery antennae (only 52) on BugGuide, and umpteen more on Google, I gave up and submitted my photo.

Which I should have done to start with, long ago.

The feathery antennae mark this moth as a male. He uses them as a "nose"; they're loaded with olfactory receptors - up to 60,000 in some species. And what he's smelling is a female, emitting her alluring pheromones. Somewhere, maybe miles away.

So sensitive are these organs and so characteristic and powerful is the scent, that a female has been known to summon a male from eleven kilometres away. At such a distance there must be as little as one molecule of scent in a cubic yard of air, yet it is sufficient to cause the male to fly in pursuit of its source. (From AskNature)

UPDATE: The BugGuide people are so quick! The moth is a Phantom Hemlock Looper;  Nepytia phantasmaria. Here's a link to a female: note the straight antennae.


  1. I am forever impressed with and grateful for entomologists. Lovely moth, and I love male moth antennae. I STILL remember learning about that in college, and "bombykol" & our teacher being amazed that a male can detect a female at bombykol concentrations of ONE part per BILLION.

    That is some powerful, sexy stuff! =)

    Also adore bugguide.net. They are SO, so great. Glad you got the answer, and put us all in the loop! (Sorry, couldn't resist the pun.)

  2. Beautiful moth .... and I didn't realize the antennae of the males are different from the female. I, too, love Bug Guide.


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