One morning I was cruising through our strange little “breakfast nook” area and saw something out of the corner of my eye…I thought there was a good-sized bat hanging outside our window! On closer inspection, it proved to be a really big moth. Really big, like seven inches across, and it was sideways so it really did look like a bat at first glance. Well of course first thing I do is start snapping pictures of it, thinking I could identify it.
There are 6,935 species of moths and butterflies documented in North America. Uh huh. There are 5726 verified species of moths in the United States. Hmmm. Well…
As it happens, moth and butterfly identification can be quite difficult sometimes, so after a fruitless search of several websites, I happened across Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA). Lucky me, they have a huge database. Best part, you can submit your sighting and if you send them a picture they have a regional expert who will identify your mystery Lepidoptera and email you back! So I registered for free, sent in my picture with the location and time, and within 30 minutes I had an ID for our moth. It is an Ascalapha odorata… the common name is Black Witch! Of course, if you read about it on the species page they make sure to tell you that it is “easily identified by its large size and pointed forewing”…ok so in future I will be able to identify one!
The screenshot above is the bottom of the species page, and my photo is on the far left.
I am truly a major nerd, but this just tickles me to death. Anyone with a decent picture of a moth, butterfly, caterpillar, egg, or pupa can submit it and get it identified, plus it helps BAMONA track species all over the continent.
Citizen science is a method of data collection using crowdsourcing- regular people make observations and report to scientists who compile and analyze it. This method is a great way to get a lot more data than trained scientists could ever get working alone.
This would be a great nature lesson for any student and is an excellent resource for insect study; well, moths and butterflies at least.
Other citizen science projects that are very easy and fun to participate in are the Great Backyard Bird Count, Project Feederwatch, and WeatherUnderground (you can connect your personal weather station to their network to monitor the weather). There are a bunch of ongoing projects listed on this Wikipedia page.
I hope this is helpful and encourages you to send in your butterfly and moth pictures to BAMONA!