by Carl Strang
I want to catch up on a couple items. First, a couple days ago I noted in passing a moth resting on an enchanter’s nightshade leaf in a photo. Here’s a close-up.
This moth in its resting position is a beautiful mimic of a fresh bird dropping. I did not plant it, this is where I found it. Most moths count on camouflage and concealment, and do not perch in so open a position. Obviously the camo has worked well for this species. Here is its name: Eudryas grata, the “beautiful wood-nymph.” English names for insects are few, but you will find one for every species in A Field Guide to the Moths of Eastern North America by Charles V. Covell, Jr. I happened to be in attendance at a Lepidoptera Society meeting where Covell gave an address, shortly after this guide was published. He shared that the editors at Houghton Mifflin, the original publisher, required English names for all species. He made up most of them. He did so as intelligently as he could, often by translating the Latin name. The “beautiful wood-nymph” is a member of the large family Noctuidae.
Yesterday I showed an unidentified caterpillar of another probable noctuid species. I did not find its picture in an excellent recent reference, Caterpillars of Eastern North America by David L. Wagner, in the Princeton Field Guide series. However, Wagner’s book allowed me to identify another caterpillar I had photographed in the 1980’s and could only say was a notodontid (member of the Notodontidae, the prominent family).
The notodontid caterpillars often are active late in the season, when their complex camouflage, often mimicking leaf damage, is effective. This one proves to be Heterocampa guttivitta, the “saddled prominent” or “maple prominent.”