Dedicated to the Preservation of Natural Areas, Wildlife & Wildlife Habitat
Moths of Troy Meadows
How To Use This Guide

About This Guide
The first thing you need to know about this online guide is that it's a work in progress. The guide does not represent all the moths that can be found at Troy Meadows. As a matter of fact, we have identified over 300 species of moths within its confines. The hundred and twenty seven species we've included here provides a solid cross section of the most common species you are likely to find during the course of a year using conventional methods of discovery. However we were happy to included a few less common species that associate specifically with the ecology of Meadows. Species like the rice stalk borer moth whose life history is intricately entwined with that of wild rice (Zizania aquatica), a wetland plant unique to Troy Meadows, both biologically and culturally. Our goal is to aid in the process of identifying most of the moths commonly encounter in this unique ecosystem and then relate the species to its surroundings - creating what we hope will be a much deeper natural awareness and respect for the resource.
Rice stalk Borer (Chilos plejadellus)
How To Use
This guide can be used out in the field with any electronic device that can access the internet - a cellphone, smartphone, tablet, or notebook. It is a work in progress. We're adding new species all the time, so come back as often as you like and check out what's new in the way of nocturnal Lepidoptera out at Troy Meadows! If and when you visit Troy Meadows, please respect the land and wildlife. Troy Meadows is private property open to the public for nature observation and study, however it is illegal to collect flora and fauna, including moth species on Wildlife Preserves property. We encourage the public to participate in this inventory of moths. This can be done by taking photographs of what you see. Point and Shoot cameras have become the primary tool for moth identification amongst professional and amateur scientist alike. Having a database full of moth images is an effective and detailed approach to learning this complicated taxa.
The online guide is not meant to replace conventional field guides. We suggest you start the identification process with a quality guide - we recommend the Peterson Field Guide to the Moths (Beadle & Locke 2012) - and when you think you've made an accurate identification using the methods therein, see if your moth matches the species plate image we've provided. If it does than the real purpose of our Guide to the Moths of Troy Meadows will be revealed. As a naturalist, one of the biggest frustrations comes when you've identified a new life form and there's no further information about the moths life history. Where can one turn to ferret-out something special and important about the discovery? Inevitably you have to research a variety of resources to glean a few basic facts that might help in the task. This is especially true of moths because very little is known about the life history of such an under appreciated guild. This guide is an attempt at providing the Lepidopterist, naturalist, and especially the ecologist a way to relate the species with the environment in which it was found. We can't guarantee that every moth you find will be in our guide, but what we can promise is that if you spend anytime perusing the field notes included in the plates for the moths you find, you'll gain a profound appreciation for this special society of creatures and the intricate ecology of its surroundings!
How to Identify Moths
  1. Try to determine overall size and shape and compare with your field guides silhouette page or thumb through guide images and drawings for quick comparison. Repetition will quickly allow you to exceed the learning curve. You'll swiftly realize that the tiny little elongated moth with a puffy snout is likely one of the Crambids as opposed to those cool medium size deltoid-winged moths that look like stealth-fighter jets - likely to be one of the Sphingids.
  2. Look for distinctive patterns of the forewing and unique color configurations.
  3. Start memorizing the anatomical lingo associated with the top (dorsal) wing surface (we've provided you with a special schematic plate for this). Once you get this boring stuff inculcated in your brain you'll quickly find it useful when two species are distinguished by phrases such as "the subterminal line is a series of black dashes along whitish veins" as opposed to, "terminal line are fringed and checkered". This example helps differentiate two very close moths, the green leuconycta and the marbled-green leuconycta that otherwise are very similar in size and pattern.
  4. Always look for a distinguishing characteristic or two; i.e., a unique curvature of the wings (brown scoopwing, lower right), maybe two silvery white spots that dominate the forewing (i.e., silver spotted fern moth, upper left), beautiful color barring (rose hooktip upper right), gigantic green moth (Luna moth), spindly-legged, skinny, tiny moth (plume moth species, lower left), distinct hairy legs (Ursula wainscot).
  5. Keep in mind where you are in the environment - are you next to a brook, near a marsh, an upland deciduous forest, etc? Obviously you will not find a pondside crambid in the middle of an upland forest or conversely dusky groundling near an open lake - these are secondary associations with much overlap so use all the clues available to you before making an identification.
  6. Moths are relatively easy to identify to the family level as most have distinct morphology (geometry and structure). Identification to the species level is a whole other animal (no pun intended). What is necessary in most cases is a variety of field guides and online resources to differentiate individuals to the species level. Many of the species included in our online guide required the consultation of scientists, field experts, and moth collectors to positively key them. This is especially true for the Noctuids - a large superfamily of moths that include 4,200 genera of mostly drab fore winged species. But don't fret - the good news is engaging in "Motheration" is addictive. Like anything else, the more you do it the better you will become, each step easier than the last. The internet has made the process more stress-free as there is no end to the amount of information and help one can find out there in cyberspace as the obsession with this taxa continues to grow exponentially.
Final Step. Use the index of this online guide to see if your species is indicated. If it is highlighted in red than it is "hot." In other words there will be a quality image of the species for you to compare yours with. Most importantly you‘ll now find some facts and specific information on the association of your species with Troy Meadows.
Keep in mind, as the project grows, so will the moths in this guide. We plan on adding many more and look forward to providing all interested biophiliacs with new and fresh insights into the natural world specific to the ecology of this unique landscape.
Species illustrated:
Top Left: Titian Peale’s Crambid
Top Right: Obtuse Yellow
Bottom Left: Little Virgin Tiger Moth
Bottom Right: Brown Hooded Owlet
Moth Wing Schematics
Upper Wing spacer Full Wing
moth wing
"Moth-it In The Meadows"
With a powerful, bright lamp and a portable electric generator,
moths and certain species of beetles, bees, and flies are attracted to light at night.
night light
Moth Cards Layout
The top color-coded horizontal bars list the common and scientific name of the moth families, subfamilies or tribe. Next the common name is listed, followed by its scientific name, its Hodges number, its flight period, its length, the page number from the Peterson Field Guide to Moths (2012), host plant(s), field notes, and photograph(s). Special emphasis is placed on the ecological significance of the species especially as it relates to Troy Meadows.
The Hodges numbering system was published in 1983 - giving a number for every species known from the U. S. and Canada (at that time) that could be used by all when cataloging moths. For more information on the Hodges numbered species, see:
We hope you learn from this guide and enjoy it!
Len Fariello, Special Project Coordinator for Wildlife Preserves, Inc.
Wildlife Preserves, Inc. -
One Gateway Center, Suite 2500, Newark NJ 07102 - 973-539-5355
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