Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bugs In The Night

Windows tend to be left open as summer comes on here in Anchorage, and as it gets sort of dark outside, we get really interesting critters flying in.

Last night this bizarre looking moth visited while I was brushing my teeth.

No, it wasn't like a bi-plane, it was resting on the mirror.  The closest I could find in Dominique M. Collet's Insects of south-central Alaska was a Leaf Blotch Miner, Family Gracilariidae.  The Bug Guide website shows lots of examples, but I couldn't find one with its wings spread out.  Most of them look like dead specimens.  So, I'm not quite sure.

Note the hind legs have little 'branches' on them.

Here's a closer view of the left wing.

The wings were an inch, maybe an inch and a half long.  Collet says,
"The larvae of the leaf blotch miners tunnel between the two outer layers of aspen leaves.  The flat caterpillar pupates at the end of the tunnel."
 The cottonwood (in the aspen family) plus the aspen leaves just came out in the last week, so this guy didn't have a lot of time tunnel and pupate.  

For those wondering - pupate means to become a pupa which the free dictionary defines as:
The nonfeeding stage between the larva and adult in the metamorphosis of holometabolous insects, during which the larva typically undergoes complete transformation within a protective cocoon or hardened case.
Maybe someone out there knows for sure what this critter is.  

[UPDATE May 18, 2014:  I emailed Dominique Collet with a link to this post and asked if he might double check my identification.  He modestly said his book was hardly comprehensive and thought it was a Pterophoridae or plume moth. He also suggested someone else if I needed more details.  The link shows there are lots of species of this kind of moth, but pictures do show the same kind of branching on the legs.]

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