Amature baiting

You thought I was going to use a different word, didn’t you?

Yesterday, with the prodding of our advisor, some of us in the lab decided to try winter moth baiting. There are several species which fly on warm winter days in the North East, and there is also the possibility that the strange weather we’ve been having (very warm) has caused some moths to eclose (emerge from their pupa) early.

Many moth species are attracted to fermenting fruit and sugary substances. Painting bait onto trees is a popular method of moth collecting. I hadn’t ever tried it myself, so I decided to tag along.

The bait, which we affectionately called “snot”, was made of old bananas, beer, and brown sugar. Louis and Roger went to a nearby forest in the afternoon to paint some trees with snot.

Looks appetizing, doesn’t it? Maybe a littletoo appetizing. I really hope Roger was just pretending to eat it…

I joined them just after dusk to check the snot covered trees. And look what we found… moths!

Their tongues were furiously lapping up the sugary alcoholic goodness. The moth below with the white spots is Eupsilia vinulenta (family Noctuidae). According to our advisor’s book these moths emerge in the fall and fly all winter, and can gather by the hundreds at beer and sugar baits. So not a terribly exciting or unexpected find, but still fun.

One behavior we noticed was that they would suddenly release their grip and drop to the ground due to the light or sudden movements. Below is Louis’ reaction to several moths dropping from the bait-covered tree in front of him.

I am quite interested in incorporating this baiting technique into my moth collecting this spring and summer.  There are a lot of different recipes and strategies to try, including moveable traps. You can even dip ropes into wine to attract moths! I would be interested in hearing from anyone who has gotten Acronicta moths with bait before.

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Posted on February 28, 2012, in Invertebrates, Lepidoptera. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

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