Ladybugs & moths: A double hitter

Fri, 07/01/2016 - 1:30pm
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Join Ocean View Foundation and Rhode Island Natural History Survey for two unique programs on Thursday, July 7 at 1 p.m., and again at 9 p.m., on Corn Neck Road near the trail to the Labyrinth. 

The Lost Ladybug

The Rhode Island Natural History Survey wants help looking for ladybugs on Block Island. The nine-spotted ladybug used to be common through the eastern U.S. but now is known only from two sites, one in eastern Long Island and one in Warwick. So nearby Block Island is a good possibility for finding more, with its well preserved grassy and brushy vegetation. To get people interested in the pursuit, David Gregg, director of the Rhode Island Natural History Survey, will lead a beetle walk on Thursday, July 7 at 1 p.m. 

The nine spotted ladybug, or Coccinella novemnotata, is one of several dozen kinds of ladybugs, which are technically beetles not bugs, which occur in Rhode Island. But over the past 30 or 40 years, this particularly beautiful species all but disappeared. A small colony was found in Amagansett, on Long Island's South Fork, in 2011 and a single specimen was discovered at Rocky Point in Warwick during the Natural History Survey's BioBlitz event in 2014.

The Natural History Survey is asking Block Islanders to join the Lost Ladybug Project online and submit ladybug photos. The site, lostladybug.org has instructions for finding and photographing ladybugs using virtually any camera, including on cell phones. Ladybugs are easy to catch. You don't need a net and you don't need to kill the ladybug. Just snap a photo showing the top of the ladybug and follow directions on the website. The site has fact sheets so you can learn to ID the ladybugs of our area, and lesson plans for teachers and parents who want to get their students involved.

3rd Annual Block Island Moth Mingle

Moths will be swirling around as the Rhode Island Natural History Survey comes to Block Island for another of its popular Moth Mingle events, presented jointly with Ocean View Foundation. Come and learn about moths and other nocturnal insects with David Gregg, director of the Natural History Survey. We will set out special moth lights and fermented moth bait in fields and shrubs to attract moths and we will identify common species and groups of species. Hopefully some rare species will be attracted, too. Join us on Thursday, July 7 at 9 p.m.

Moths are beautiful and mysterious and they are also important indicators of environmental health. Moth species are numerous where the plant community is diverse and healthy and where there is limited pesticide use and little or no light pollution. Moths (and their caterpillars) are important food for many species of birds so a healthy moth population helps bring us birds of all types from plucky wrens to colorful warblers.

There are more than 800 species of moths in Rhode Island but as important as they are, little is known about most of them. Many forces could be changing the moth diversity, including natural processes such as habitat succession and man-made impacts such as development and climate change. Without basic monitoring, the moth population could be changing and we wouldn't even know it. 

Moth watching is fun for all ages. Wear close-toed shoes and socks because of brambles and poison ivy, and wear long sleeves and pants or bring insect repellant for mosquitos (it's okay, it won't scare away the moths!) 

Rhode Island Natural History Survey connects people knowledgeable about Rhode Island's animals, plants, and natural systems with each other and with those who can use that knowledge for research, education, and conservation.

Ocean View Foundation is a Block Island not-for-profit that connects people with nature. For more information call (401) 595-7055.