Jul 272012

So now that National Moth Week is in full swing and you’ve been checking your porch lights at night and flower beds throughout the day, you’re probably looking for some way to identify all the great new additions to your natural history lists.

There are a variety of guides, keys and other identification resources out there for Lepidoptera, and while I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t taken much time to look through them, these are the ones I turn to first when I absolutely need to identify a “lep”.

Butterflies & Skippers

National Audobon Society Field Guide to North American ButterfliesButterflies are what my friends and I like to call “honourary birds” because there are so many people out looking for them, and there are a large number of field guides produced to help with their identification. My personal choice is the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies, which has fairly good live photos and detailed life history information. If I were to nitpick, I’d wish for actual range maps rather than range descriptions, and more photos of the butterflies would be nice (especially for those species which are only illustrated with one photo — a couple of times I’ve not been able to ID my photos because the representative photo had its wings closed while my photo had its wings open or vice versa).

I recently downloaded the digital app version of this field guide for my iPhone, and absolutely loved it! The Audubon Society has added plenty of new photos and still included all of the natural history information from the print edition (although still no maps…). Being in a digital format means that searching for species is a breeze, and they’ve added some social media connectivity, allowing you to share your finds from the field to Facebook. They also offer personal accounts so you can keep lists of your sightings which work across all of their field guide apps (I also have their North American Insects, Birds, Mammals, Flowers and Trees apps on my phone). I love having all this natural history information literally in my pocket and available whenever and wherever I may be!

Normally $10 (which is cheap compared to the print version at $15-25) the app is available for both Apple and Android devices. Even better, the team at Audubon has dropped the price for the app to just $0.99 until Sunday July 29th in honour of National Moth Week! Definitely a great deal and well worth a Loonie (or dollar bill).


Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North AmericaUntil recently I never really had a good guide to moths that I could reliably get IDs from. Normally I’d have to figure out what family they belonged to, and then start searching through BugGuide to find a photo of something that looked about right. Needless to say, that took a long damn time and resulted in me not paying much attention to moths beyond a casual ID of big species.

All that’s changed now that I’ve got a copy of David Beadle & Seabrooke Leckie‘s Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America. This field guide is fantastic, and a great addition to both the Peterson field guide family and my collection. The book seems nearly comprehensive for the area (there are a few noticeable things not included, like the wingless¬†female Fall Cankerworm I showcased the other day – the winged male is included though), apparently including nearly 1,500 species, ranging from tiny micro-moths to big eye-catching species, and the photos are excellent for helping with identifications. Its taken me a little bit of time to learn the different groups and body forms of moths that are used to group similar things together, but the authors included a really useful silhouette guide at the back of the book to help n00bs like myself (one nit pick: I wish they had included page numbers under the silhouettes directing you to the start of the appropriate section). Every page also includes a life-sized shadow for a moth on the page, with the remaining images on the page displayed to scale appropriately. Because the guide includes so many species it can be tough finding the correct group to start with, but there’s only been a couple of species that I’ve been stumped by so far. At 610 pages it’s not a small guide, and there is very limited natural history information included, with the authors choosing to include bigger photos over other information (which is fine with me). Plus they have graphical range maps and flight periods, and indicate how common or rare each species is which I really like.

I can definitely see myself picking up a 2nd copy to leave up at the cottage, and I can see myself paying a little more attention to moths from now on now that I’m confident I can identify them!

Technical Keys

Of course if you can’t seem to identify a moth or butterfly, you can always turn to a technical key like Jason Dombroskie’s CJAI matrix key to the Lepidoptera of Canada (I wrote up my thoughts on it previously). It’s certainly not for beginners, and usually requires a dead, preserved specimen and observation under a microscope or magnifying loupe, but if all else fails, it is as good a resource as any.
Do you have a favourite guide to identify moths and butterflies? Feel free to leave your suggestions below in the comments, I’m always looking to expand my collection!

Jul 242012

Ryan FleacrestIt’s been quite awhile since the last Tuesday Tunes, but I think it’s time I resurrect it for a bit, and I have the perfect song for (Inter)National Moth Week — Moth by Audioslave.

And as a special bonus, here’s a little taxonomic refresher that A Moth Is Not A Butterfly from Hawksley Workman.

In fact, if we’re following a strictly cladistic view, then butterflies and skippers are actually moths. I suspect this song wouldn’t be quite as poetic, so I’ll just stick to taxonomy and leave the songsmithing to the professionals.


These songs are available on iTunes:

Moth – Revelations – Audio Slave
A Moth Is Not a Butterfly – Treeful of Starling (Limited Edition) – Hawksley Workman

Nov 152011

Ryan FleacrestSince I’m here at ESA 2011 and becoming reacquainted with old friends and meeting all sorts of new people interested in insects, I thought it was only fitting to share this short song from Weezer! We’ll forgive the slight transgression about earthworms being insects for now, but Rivers Cuomo best watch his taxonomy in the future!

Don’t be afraid to go out and make an insect/entomologist friend of your own this week!


This song is available on iTunes – All My Friends Are Insects (Bonus Track) – Hurley (Deluxe Version)

Nov 082011

Ryan FleacrestWell, it’s been awhile since the last sugar pop edition of Tuesday Tunes, so I guess now’s as good a time as any.

Proudly Canadian, the Stereos share that feeling of gastric unease in Butterflies.



Speaking of gastrointestinal Lepidoptera, I’ll be traveling to Reno, NV this weekend to take part in the Entomological Society of America Annual Meeting. It’s going to be a busy week for me, and I’ll be sharing my schedule with times for my talks, what I’ll be talking about and some of the other events I’ll be looking forward to tomorrow! So watch next week when I hope to be active sharing the experience with all of you, here on the blog and on Twitter (where you can follow me @BioInFocus).

Nov 012011

Ryan FleacrestWell, it’s the day after Halloween (commonly referred to as November 1st) and what better song to accompany the tossing of Jack-o-Lanterns to the curb than something by the Smashing Pumpkins? Another 90’s hit that I remember quite fondly from my formative years, Bullet with Butterfly Wings doesn’t really have much to do with insects beyond the title, but with reference to vampires and plenty of rats, it’s a pretty decent Halloween song (complete with creepy zombie-like miners).


And speaking of Smashing Pumpkins, stay tuned later today for the big reveal of our lab’s annual Ent-o-Lantern!


This song is available on iTunes – Bullet With Butterfly Wings – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

Oct 252011

Ryan FleacrestWhen I first found today’s song, I immediately thought of this dragonfly photo I took while on vacation a few weeks ago:

Dragonfly Dreams


That is, until I finished watching the music video and realized the video director and the artist might not realize the difference between a butterfly and a dragonfly…


If you’re keeping track at home, that’s a Taxonomy Fail Index of 57.8, and quite frankly, one of the least imaginable given the general popularity of both orders! Perhaps that was an artistic choice of some manner…


This song is available on iTunes – Dragonfly – Bring Me the Workhorse

Sep 202011

Ryan FleacrestWell, I’m back from a relaxing vacation with my wife at the family cottage, well-rested, recharged, and ready to dive back into my work with fresh eyes and new ideas! That goes for the blog as well, with inspiration for bigger posts and a themed week or two to come in the future!

Generally when you go on vacation it’s to escape from the stress and workload that comes with day to day life, so it’s somewhat fitting that today’s song is titled Escapism (Gettin’ Free). That’s not really entomological, and neither is the band name, Digable Planets, at first glance. But sometimes the sum of the parts are greater than whole, and Digable Planets is made up of Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler, Mary Ann “Ladybug Mecca” Vieira and Craig “Doodlebug” Irving! A triple threat of entomological nomenclature!

I’m a fan of nicknames, finding them considerably easier to remember (a task I’m normally horrible at), but how the 2 male members of the trio managed to acquire “Butterfly” and “Doodlebug” as their nicknames has got to be an interesting story…


This song is available on iTunes – Escapism (Gettin’ Free) – Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time & Space)

Sep 062011

Ryan FleacrestAs hurricane season arrives and dangerous storms approach the east coast of North America, it’s worth considering what causes these deadly cyclones. Not necessarily the warm waters off of Africa, but perhaps a butterfly on the other side of the world, whose flapping wings have set off an unpredictable set of events. Although the butterfly effect (as it relates to chaos theory, not that questionable Ashton Kutcher movie) may not be totally responsible for storms causing billions of dollars damage annually, the idea that simple atmospheric changes made by a flying butterfly can impact the total world is quite astounding.

Now to make you really think: as species become threatened with extinction thanks to human activity, how might a reduction or lack of these small atmospheric changes affect future weather patterns and civilization? Fewer storms? More? Who knows.

All joking and theorizing aside, if you or those you know live in places prone to hurricane or cyclone activity, please be safe in the coming weeks.

This song is available on iTunes – Butterflies and Hurricanes – Absolution

Aug 022011

Ryan FleacrestAdmit it, you’ve found a trendy pop song somewhat entertaining at some point in your life. Whether it was Rick Astley or Aqua, I’m sure everyone has had a guilty pleasure song or two which they find kind of fun despite the public backlash that may result from admitting it. Today I present you with one of mine… Butterfly by Crazy Town. While I’m not proud of it, I did make a mix CD with this song on it at the height of its popularity. Ugh.



Wow, I must say that takes the cake as the cheesiest music video I’ve shared here on Tuesday Tunes. Sorry about that.

Now can we all forgot this ever happened? Ok, thanks.


This song is available on iTunes – Butterfly (Album Version) – The Gift of Game

Apr 122011

Ryan FleacrestAlright, it’s time for another fluffy pop song in the Tuesday Tunes line up. I’ve managed to hold back the swarm of honeydew producing artists since Valentine’s Day, but there are a lot of entomological songs coming out of the pop industry, so they’re going to creep in once in awhile!

Butterfly was the second single off of Mariah Carey’s 1997 album of the same name. This album also featured the hit track Honey, which disappointingly doesn’t feature bees or anything else entomological.



I hear Mariah Carey is currently gravid; I wonder what host plant this butterfly is looking to deposit on? Fleacrest, out!


This song is available on iTunes – Butterfly – Butterfly