National Moth Week 2013: Participants and Plans…


The Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America (2012), by David Beadle and Seabrooke Leckie, is an excellent Field Guide for identifying the moths of northeastern North Dakota and northern Minnesota.  (ISBN 9780547238487)

Tentative Agenda for ‘Month Moth’ and ‘Moth Week’

1) “Moth Art,” at the Grand Forks Public Library (8-28 July)

2) Tobacco Hornworm Moth Caterpillar Feeding and Measuring Sessions,” each Wednesday (with Dr. Beck Simmons) and Sunday (with Heidi Connahs) at 1:30 p.m., at the Children’s Library, Grand Forks Public Library

3) “All about Moths,” with Laci Prucinsky, Naturalist, TRSP, at the Grand Forks Public Library, Thursday, 2:00-3:00 p.m., 11 July

4) “The Battle of the Sexes: Competitive Males and Picky Females,” with Dr. Becky Simmons, Biologist, UND, at the Turtle River State Park, Friday, 8:00-11:00 p.m., 19 July; and we’ll go Night-lighting for Moths at the TRSP after Becky’s presentation!

5) “More about Moths: Hands-on Experiences with Local Moths and Caterpillars,” with Laci Prucinsky, Naturalist, TRSP, at the Turtle River State Park, Saturday, 9:00-11:00 a.m., 20 July

6) “A Second Evening with Moths,” with Dr. Jerry Fauske, Entomologist, NDSIRC/NDSU, at Turtle River State Park, Saturday, 8:00-11:00 p.m., 20 July; and we’ll go Night-lighting for Moths at the TRSP after Jerry’s presentation!

7) “What Moths can tell us about the History of North Dakota,” with Dr. Jerry Fauske, Research Specialist and Collections Manager at the North Dakota State Insect Research Collection, Room 253, O’Kelly Hall, UND Campus, Thursday, 7:00 p.m., 25 July

8) “Night-lighting for Moths,” with Dr. Carl Barrentine, Integrative Biologist, UND, behind UND’s Wellness Center, Saturday, 9:00 p.m.-midnight, 27 July

Moth Week Hosts

Laci 3

Laci Prucinsky, Interpretive Naturalist and Outdoor Learning Coordinator, Turtle River State Park, 3084 Park Avenue, Arvilla, North Dakota 58214-9478. (Office: 701.594.4445)

“I was never one that played with “bugs”, I don’t like bugs or spiders in my house and have a firm No Trespassing rule that members of the arthropod community routinely ignore.  Being a naturalist sometimes means you have to suck it up and deal with those things that have 6 or more legs. (shudder)  I did develop an interest in moths and butterflies two summers ago; actually caterpillars caught my eye.  It was an odd summer, the Missouri River valley was under water, the weather was hotter and stickier than normal, and these random creepers kept appearing on my desk with a “what is this?” note taped to whatever random kitchen container had been handy.  Finally I admitted that spending hours paging through Google image searches wasn’t the best way to identify the caterpillars.  I found David Wagner’s Caterpillars of Eastern North America.  Jackpot!  (Well, sort of, but more on that later).  Now I could identify that funerary dagger moth (Acronicta funeralis), and the linden looper (Erannis tiliaria).  That was the start of my amateur caterpillar identification career.”

“Back to the note that Wagner’s book was only sort of a jackpot.  Turns out that not everything was covered in that book, which, of course, necessitated the purchase of Wagner’s Owlet Caterpillars of Eastern North America, and William Conner’s Tiger Moths and Woolly Bears, and almost daily trips through”

“Adult moths are nice and all but caterpillars are where the action’s really at.”

–Laci Prucinsky

Jerry Fauske Photo

Dr. Gerald M. Fauske, Research Specialist and Collections Manager, North Dakota State Insect Research Collection, North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota

“My childhood memories go back to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where my interest in Lepidoptera took root.  As a child, and being nearsighted, the colorful blurs which turned out to be butterflies captured my attention- and I captured them to find out what they were.  By junior high I’d collected and identified all the butterflies one would expect to find in southeastern South Dakota, including a few State records.  Although Mitchell &. Zims’ Golden Guide to Butterflies and Moths was my gateway to discovering the variety of the natural world and particularly the world of butterflies, one day I captured a butterfly not in this guide.  I soon learned that there were other more scholarly books about butterflies archived in the adult section of the Sioux Falls Public Library.  So, with my Fathers’ library card in hand, I went searching for a copy of Holland’s Butterfly Book and found Holland’s Moth Book instead.  When I opened the book to the plate showing Black-winged Catocala (Underwing moths), my interest in moths began.  That unknown butterfly (the Butterfly Book did reappear in the library) turned out to be Eurema mexicana (Mexican yellow), a stray from the south.  Too late, I was captured by a myriad of moths!  Although my interest in learning about moths was sometimes disparaged by others who believed in the common wisdom of acquiring a practical vocation in demand by others, my passion for moths grew (probably because of my diabolical persistence).   By the end of high school, and with the help of Forbes’ Noctuidae (Lepidoptera of New York and Neighboring State, part 3), I’d logged an honest 10,000 hours of studying moths!  The scientific question that has guided me in my career in its earliest form was: Why the variety of variety? This question later metamorphosed into the two study areas: diversity and biogeography.  And here I am now, nearly forty years later, nearing the age of sixty, and I’m still cultivating a passion for moths (particularly Catocala and Crambus moths).  Who knew?”                      –Jerry Fauske

Becky 2

Dr. Rebecca Simmons, Associate Professor, Department of Biology, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota 

“I’ve always been interested in insects, but never thought I’d study moths. I went to Bridgewater College, a small liberal arts school in VA, and graduated with a general Biology degree. I decided that I would try graduate school, and was fortunate to be admitted to Wake Forest University’s Master’s program in Biology. Once I was there, I began working with Dr. Bill Conner, an insect physiologist/chemical ecologist. One of his other graduate students had studied the behavior of the polka dot wasp moth–the males and females serenade each other with ultrasound during courtship. Anyway, the graduate student brought a cooler full of these moths from Florida, and told me to get up in the middle of the night and listen to them sing! I did, and I fell in love with them and the entire group because of their spectacular beauty and behaviors.”

“From there, I went to University of Minnesota for a Ph.D. to learn more about tiger moths and the evolution of communication. I did a research fellowship with USDA and the Smithsonian in Washington DC afterwards, but missed students and universities. Lucky for me, UND hired me to teach undergraduate Biology and Evolution classes. Plus, I’m able to keep researching moth signals, by examining coloration, chemical cues, and sound in an evolutionary framework.”

“I love looking at moths, but I believe that eavesdropping on them gives another fascinating insight into their lives.”  –Becky Simmons

Heidi 3

Heidi Connahs, Ph.D. candidate, Biology, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota

“My passion for insects in general began fifteen years ago while studying for a degree in forestry. During my training, insects were always viewed as pests however I preferred to think of them as a fascinating miniature world of creatures that were beautifully decorated.  Although I was fond of all insects (well with the exception of mosquitos of course!), I was particularly drawn to the lepidoptera, especially butterflies.  During my travels to the tropics I developed a deep interest in caterpillars and was amazed at the diversity in their morphology.  There were caterpillars that mimicked snakes, others that resembled cotton candy while others disguised themselves as bird poop!  My favorite caterpillars however turned out to be moths—the inchworms (Geometridae).  These tiny little caterpillars cleverly disguise themselves as twigs, leaf veins and even flower parts.  The delicate adults were just as attractive with an amazing diversity of wing color patterns, not just the “plain little brown jobs” that people often think of when they picture a moth!  My interest in the beauty of moths and butterflies has led me to my current research area in Evo-Devo (Evolutionary Developmental Biology) under the direction of Dr. Rebecca Simmons where I am examining the genes involved in producing the amazing diversity of wing color patterns.”   –Heidi Connahs

Alexander 3

Alexander Knudson, Undergraduate Biology Student and McNair Scholar, University of North Dakota , Grand Forks, North Dakota

“My fascination with insects began many years ago in my youth.  I always seemed to be intrigued by the small things that were on the ground, in the air, and everywhere!  This love of bugs was fostered in a zoology class and most recently an entomology class at UND.  Entomology has recently become my interest of study, but I know it will be so much fun.  I’m currently an undergraduate biology student and McNair Scholar at the University of North Dakota.  My ongoing project is an insect survey at UND’s biology field station at Oakville Prairie.”  –Alexander Knudson

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