On Sunday I tweeted about having seen a small, interesting-looking moth that flew away too quickly for me to get a photo of it, and my amazement that Googling a shot in the dark like “small black moth with white spots” actually yielded a likely ID (something in the genus Alypia, the forester moths). I thought that was the end of that, but then today during lunch one of my coworkers came and found me to tell me there was a cool moth on the sidewalk outside. I love that even among my fellow environmental educators at work I’m the one who has the reputation for geeking out about things like cool moths.
It was either the same moth I’d seen on Sunday or a very similar one, but today’s much colder weather meant that it had gone from manic flight to drowsiness, not moving more than a few inches in the time it took me to go get my camera and return, my leftover lasagna abandoned in the kitchen.
The fact that I’d already looked it up over the weekend meant that I sounded much more knowledgeable than I actually am when I told my coworker, “Oh, yeah, that’s a forester moth.” Specifically it’s an Eight-spotted Forester, Alypia octomaculata. If you’re saying to yourself right now, “But I only see four spots,” that’s because it’s sitting with its wings folded so you can only see the forewings. There are two more spots on each hindwing. Isn’t it pretty? As a colorful, day-flying moth, it probably often gets mistaken for a butterfly.
According to BugGuide, this species’ larval foodplants include grapevines and Virginia creeper, both of which can be found in abundance in the forest across the street. It overwinters as a pupa and emerges in the spring, and those blue highlights in its wings are an indication that this one was fairly fresh. I hope it makes it through this cold snap!