July 9, 2012
Location: Mt Washington, Los Angeles, CA
This evening after the MWHA General Meeting, a large underwing came to the porch light and flapped loudly on the windowpane. I got the camera and ran outside, and after forgetting to remove the lens cap, I lost the Underwing for the last time, for now.
Underwings in the genus Catocala get their common name from the brightly colored, often red with black concentric rings, underwings that attract attention of predators when the moth flies. When the moth lands on a tree or in chiaroscuro lighting, it vanishes and befuddles the predator, in this case, me with the camera. I had already taken the time to set the ISO to 1600, the shutter to 250 and the aperture to 2.8 to capitalize on the fast shutter speed but shallow depth of field. Here is a photo from last year of the mysterious and unknown Mt Washington Underwing from July 16, 2010.
Though I had hoped to capture a thrilling action photo of the Underwing flapping around the porchlight, alas, this was not possible. The first time the elusive moth with excellent vision landed, it was behind the tool box in the shadows. It took me a while to find it and I had to move the tool box to startle it back into flight since I couldn’t make it out in the shadows. The second time it landed, it landed on the screen and again it eluded me. This was the photo where I forgot to remove the lens cap. By the time I did that, the moth flew again and I couldn’t locate it though I know for certain it did not leave the front porch. Here is a photo from the same date, July 16, but a year earlier, in 2009.
This photo (see What’s That Bug? archives) from elsewhere shows the underwings of another individual. These moths are positively stunning in flight. They are strong and decisive with a rapid flight. If you want to learn more about moths, come to Mt Washington Moth Night on July 21, 2012 at the Red Barn in Elyria Canyon Park. Lepidopterist and Tiger Moth expert Julian Donahue will attempt to attract moths with black light and other light sources. This event is a preview to National Moth Week.
Julian Donahue provides an identification
The 2009 & 2010 photos are of the Walnut Underwing, Catocala piatrix. The New Mexico moth is different, but don’t have any Catocala books handy. You can always check the Moth Photographers Group, where you should be able to identify the New Mexico moth (http://mothphotographersgroup.msstate.edu/).
Update July 10, 2012
Upon getting ready to leave for work this morning, we found the Walnut Underwing resting on the window ledge.