Butterflies and Moths

Hogsphinxmothonhydrangea1709_edited_thumb[1]I enjoy watching moths and butterflies as they flit about doing what they do, but I’m not very adept at identifying most of these valuable pollinators. Back in 2009, when I caught this shot of a hog sphinx moth on a hydrangea blossom I had to do a Google search and peruse many moth photos before I found enough information … and I’m still not sure I identified the moth correctly.

So I’m thrilled to learn of BAMONA, the Butterflies and Moths of North America project. This is a citizen scientist project (much like Project BudBurst, another citizen scientist project I’ve written about and participate in that collects plant phenology data from volunteers). It’s spearheaded by the good folks at Montana State University and it seeks to gather the swarm of photos and information collected by recreational and professional lepidopterists into one online database.

The BAMONA about page describes the need best:

In recent years, research has indicated that butterflies and other species appear to be shifting their ranges in response to climatic change. Additionally, there is evidence that some butterflies are emerging earlier in the year; this altered timing of metamorphosis may indicate ecosystem changes. Studies on pollinator declines also show alarming trends, mostly in bees, but data on other pollinators is sorely needed. Research of these types and scales require far more data than any single scientist can amass.

While museum collections, personal collections, published literature, and paper field guides contain valuable data, these sources:

  • are scattered,
  • can be out of date,
  • contain varying levels of detail,
  • can require considerable effort to access, and
  • are often known only to a limited circle of lepidopterists.

When asking complex questions, scientists need to spend time conducting analysis, not amassing data or tracking down individual personal collections one by one to map species ranges or abundance.

The BAMONA project aims to serve as a one-stop database of butterfly and moth data that scientists can use to form or to address research questions. While it is a collaborative effort between individuals with varying levels of knowledge and experience with Lepidoptera, contributors share a common goal of assembling high quality data on butterfly and moth distribution.

Through the BAMONA website you can browse uploaded photos submitted by BAMONA participants, access links to other butterfly, moth, caterpillar, and bug identification resources, learn more about butterflies and moths in general or about specific species, and follow recent butterfly and moth sightings.

Having all this information readily available in one place will surely be a boon for scientists but I welcome this link as a resource for making a quick identification of an unfamiliar moth or butterfly. To insure easy access to the BAMONA link I’ve added it to the Gardening Links widget on the right side of this blog.

Spring is right around the corner – just 11 more days. My first crocus is blooming and just this morning I saw robins in the yard. Moths and butterflies will soon be evident and I suspect the BAMONA website will get a lot of hits from me.

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8 comments for “Butterflies and Moths

  1. March 9, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    I absolutely love butterflies and moths and have planted some things for them in my urban garden… sure enough they are here aplenty, along with the bees!

  2. joenesgarden
    March 9, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    Hi Jess,
    It is amazing how many more butterflies and moths, as well as bees, visit when just a few flowering plants show thier stuff. Together they put on quite a show.

  3. March 11, 2011 at 8:42 am

    Great link to a very informative and entertaining site. Thanks for this!

    I spent a day this past rainy week up in Deerfield Mass. at Magic Wings, the butterfly conservatory, so I have butterflies flitting around in my mind. It was a treat to walk among hundreds of gorgeous flying jewels and to do a little studying to learn about them. It is impossible to take a bad picture of a butterfly, they are such great photo subjects!

  4. joenesgarden
    March 11, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Sounds like a fun trip, Laurrie. Now you can identify the butterflies in your photos on the BAMONA website.

  5. March 11, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Sounds like a great website. I’ll definitely check it out since I’m always trying to ID something in my garden. BTW, I’m so jealous you’ve seen your first robin already. I haven’t seen any yet, although I did find an antler in my garden today. W’ve lived here for almost 2o years and that’s a first!

  6. March 13, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Great website, Joene. I love butterflies and moths, but… I still don’t know what the actual difference is between a butterfly and a moth. Is it the way they fold their wings? Their looks, their habits, i.e. nocturnal or not? Do you know?

  7. joenesgarden
    March 13, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Debbie, You’ll likely see robins this weekend since the weather is supposed to be nice. What did you do with the antler? We have an antler decorating the top of our outdoor utility box.

  8. joenesgarden
    March 13, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Hi Ulrike,
    I think the difference is in body shape and antler size, but I could be wrong. I’ve not seen a butterfly at night, but see many moths at night and in early morning and late afternoon. In fact I saw my first moth just this morning even though the temperature was about 35 degrees F.

    Glad everyone likes the BAMONA website.

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