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Catalina Island Conservancy

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Text and Photos by Carlos de la Rosa
Chief Conservation
and Education Officer
Catalina Island Conservancy


March 2009

Mothying Around Catalina

Moths are considered by many to be the "ugly" sisters of butterflies. Butterflies get most of our attention because of their brightly colored wings that shimmer in the sunlight and their fondness for flowers and nectar. Butterflies are delicate, soft and feminine. They make our springs and summers on the Island beautiful and memorable.

Moths, on the other hand, get the short end of the stick. They fly at night, with bats, owls and mosquitoes. They get in your face, sneak into the house, ruin your clothes, hover around lamps and lights, and leave all that fine "dust" on your fingers when you grab them. They tend to be drab-colored, ugly and downright unsightly. But are they really?

Like their cousins the butterflies, moths provide many examples of beautiful adaptations for specialized ways of life. They can be very colorful, resourceful, and important to us. Some have showy colors to scare off predators. Others play dead when bothered, and if bothered even more (like when birds are trying to eat them) they may even exude bitter substances to deter further attention. Many have important roles in nature's food webs (bats eat them!), in the pollination of flowers and even in the control of invasive plant species. Did you know that there is a species that feeds on Genista? Also known as flax-leaved broom, this plant is one of the most invasive on the Island, competing for real estate with natives such as St. Catherine's lace.

In this gallery we'll meet some of the fabulous, colorful, strangely-shaped and useful moths of Catalina Island.

Mosey down to the moths...

Additional photos by Peter J. Bryant and Jack Baldelli