30 de julio de 2023

I spy Spilosomas

Here we go! This time with tiger moths

According to Moths of North Carolina website, there are three Spilosoma species to be found in the NC Coastal plain.

Spilosoma congrua
Spilosoma dubia
Spilosoma virginica
and BugGuide mentioned that Hyphantria cunea can be confused with the others, and moths of NC had it on the coastal plain checklist as well, so we'll look at that as well. All of the following information is taken directly from BugGuide unless otherwise mentioned.

Virginian Tiger Moth Spilosoma virginica

  • wingspan 32-52 mm
  • "S. virginica has yellow markings on the abdomen"- Paul Dennehy
  • tibiae and tarsi will be strongly white with complete or partial black banding dorsally along the tarsi.
  • Yellow egg masses

Agreeable Tiger Moth Spilosoma congrua

  • wingspan 27-47 mm
  • "S. congrua's abdomen is pure white" - Paul Dennehy
  • tibiae and tarsi will be solid white laterally, bordered by solid black medially along the interior of the tibiae/tarsi with a clear demarcation and no banding on tarsi.
  • White egg masses

Dubious Tiger Moth Spilosoma dubia

  • wingspan 32-38 mm
  • Yellow areas on abdomen. Black dots down dorsal abdomen- dots are larger than H. cunea's (personal observation, not from BugGuide).

Fall webworm moth Hyphantria cunea

  • wingspan 25-42 mm
  • has small row of dots down dorsal abdomen
  • tibiae and tarsi vary – in immaculate specimens the tibiae/tarsi is often completely white/pale, while in heavily marked specimens, the tibiae/tarsi are completely black.
  • In other lighter marked specimens, tarsi may appear banded and most similar to S. virginica, but will only appear so laterally with solid black/dark medially.
  • When dealing with this variation, it’s typically described as H. cunea having dark tibiae/tarsi, the tarsi banded with white, verses S. virginica having mostly white tibiae/tarsi, the tarsi banded with black.
  • very pale green egg masses
Publicado el julio 30, 2023 06:07 TARDE por aureleah_aurita aureleah_aurita | 2 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

Doryodes Days (Happy last day of NC Moth Week!)

(Skip to squiggly line to ignore my ramblings and get to the ID info! All info from paper cited at end)

National Moth Week takes place the last week of July every year. I joined iNaturalist in April 2022 for the City Nature Challenge and soon after participated in the NC Moth Count in July. After that, my eyes were always on the lookout for neat moths to photograph. Soon after moth week wrapped up, on August 4, 2022, I photographed a striking, striped moth that was ID'd as being in the genus Doryodes, thanks to iNat's computer vision suggestion.

Then, a week later, I saw a second one, and once again iNat's computer vision suggested Doryodes to me.

For the next year, those observations would sit in "Needs ID" limbo, largely forgotten by me, until this year's moth week.

On the first day of moth week, July 22, I found another one of those neat striped moths! This time, however, iNaturalist did not have a suggestion for me beyond "Owlet Moths and Allies". I recognized it though and remembered them being ID'd the year prior, so I went back and relearned the genus name to be able to ID my moth later that day.

Two days later, my fourth Doryodes moth appears, and at this point I'm starting to get curious what species it is, so I throw a haphazard Dull Doryodes Moth Doryodes spadaria ID on it, maybe in slight hopes it will get the attention of another IDer. I think "Dull Doryodes" just sounded like it could be familiar and it looked very similar to what I was seeing.

Towards the end of moth week, I start going through my observations to try and refine some IDs where I can. I decide to see what different Doryodes species are documented in my area, so I go to the Moths of North Carolina website and create a checklist for macromoths in the coastal plain and find three contenders, including one species that's only found in eastern NC, which excited me and led to me IDing all of my observations as that species, but I know it's hard to actually tell the difference between these without dissection so I'm going handle this the way I always do when I have something difficult to ID: compile some notes in an iNat journal post in hopes some combination of traits will help me narrow down my options!


Doryodes bistrialis (8765) Double-lined Doryodes
• male forewing: 13.5–15.5 mm, female forewing: 14.5–16.0 mm
• narrowest brown stripe of the three
• inland species of pine savannah associated with wiregrass; North Carolina to Florida and Mississippi
Doryodes bistrialis, unlike all other species in the genus, occurs mainly inland away from coastal salt marshes. It occurs in pine savannas where wiregrass (Aristida stricta), the presumed food plant, is abundant... The species is on the wing from April through October in North Carolina... In North Carolina the savannas are usually a half mile or more inland from coastal marshes and extend westward into the Sandhills adjacent to the piedmont. It is possible that the salt marsh species and the wiregrass species could occur in the same or very close areas where coastal marshes penetrate inland but we did not find such areas.
• The first iNat record of a Doryodes in NC is currently considered a research-grade bistralis. This is also the only research grade Doryodes in the state. All of my moths are seen near a barrier island marsh, and while there is abundant Aristida grass on the north side of the island, there isn't as much on the south side where my observations are taking place. I would rule this species out based on habitat, but the research-grade bistralis was observed on Cape Hatteras, where the available habitat is more similar to mine, so I'll keep it in consideration.

Doryodes fusselli (8767.1) Fussell's Doryodes
• male forewing: 12-17mm (16-17 in spring, 14-15 in summer, some 12-13 in late summer)
• female forewing: 16mm
• Larger than bistralis, smaller (especially females) than spadaria
• The medial chocolate stripe on the forewing is broader than in D. bistrialis, but narrower than that of D. spadaria
• Dare County south to Brunswick and New Hanover counties in NC
• The hindwing is pearly white, without the buff coloring of D. spadaria.
• salt marsh species known only from coastal North Carolina
• species appears to be on the wing continuously

Doryodes spadaria (8767) Dull Doryodes Moth
Doryodes spadaria is the most widespread and common species in the genus, and except for Doryodes fusselli in coastal North Carolina
• male forewing: 13-20 mm (most commonly 16-18)
• female forewing: 18–21 mm (most commonly 19 mm)
• In late summer some males of D. spadaria can have white hindwings, but size ranges for the two species (D. spadaria and D. fusselli) do not overlap in this generation.
• Atlantic Coast from Canada to southern Florida

Lafontaine JD, Sullivan JB. A revision of the genus Doryodes Guenée, 1857, with descriptions of six new species (Lepidoptera, Erebidae, Catocalinae, Euclidiini). Zookeys. 2015 Oct 15;(527):3-30. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.527.6087. PMID: 26692785; PMCID: PMC4668885.

Publicado el julio 30, 2023 01:47 TARDE por aureleah_aurita aureleah_aurita | 5 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

12 de diciembre de 2022

*Russulas* of NC

12/11 Alright, once again I'm getting lost in the world of observations that are resistant to species level IDing.

This time it's the Russula genus of mushrooms, commonly called brittlegills. Once again a group notoriously difficult to ID to species with basic observation which is why I've never cared to try with my earlier Russula observations.

But the other day I found a big, gorgeous, specimen that seemed perfect to do a spore print with, and I wasn't expecting such vibrantly colored spores! I immediately tried to look up what species it could be but was frustrated at most turns. Ultimately, I was able to find a couple of resources to give me at least some options, although it's very difficult to find fungi information that isn't outdated since the field is developing at such a rapid pace.

Here's where I'm at with my quest to ID so far:

My first resource is always my field guide (Bessette, Bessette, & Hopping, 2018), but, like every other mushroom guide, it only has Russula emetica as a red capped Russula option, but that would have a white spore print.

Next, I looked at every red capped Russula specimen found in NC at the New York Botanical Garden's Steere herbarium to see if there were any matches

Ruled out:
Russula pusilla Peck I think this tends to be a lighter red cap and is small
Russula magna Beardslee - blackening russula
Russula rubescens Beardslee- blushing russula
Russula rosea/lepida has a cream colored spore print
Russula cinerascens has pale ochre print and duller cap that ages to olive
Russula uncialis has a white spore print and duller cap
Russula fragiloides Murrill has purpler cap
Russula sanguinea Fr. - unbruising red cap with orange-yellow spores= tempting, but the stipe tends to be notably red while mine are always white

Ones I couldn't rule out as easily:
Russula aciculocystis Kauffman ex Bills & O.K.Mill. Red cap and yellow spores found in the piedmont but described as maxing out at 5 cm. Stipe described as sometimes white but often tinted pink red brown or yellow- whereas mine are consistently white
Russula amygdaloides Kauffman- thick orange yellow spore print , but is also described as rarely red capped with a mild taste and yellow gills

Nothing seemed promising so I looked and looked and found another resource that seemed better than blindly looking through herbarium records.

I used this key to NC Russulas and arrived at Russula pungens (aka Russula rubra) which could be a potential match. Everything matches except for the mention that the flesh is red under the cuticle- for mine it's white. I'll try to taste one and see if it's as painfully acrid as described. I'm just not very brave to have done it initially. Honestly, I'm not sure if I'll be brave enough to try at all, actually.
Other similar species from that key include:
Russula alutacea deep yellow spores (darker than pungens) with a solid stem and mild taste with "antimony" yellow gills, which seems too dramatic for this observation. this species is maybe the same as R. ochraphylla
Russula tenuiceps but it's blushing
Russula sanguina (spores lighter than pungens)
Russula atropurpurea has ochre spores, but a more purpley cap

Another species I'm considering based on similar appearance is Russula cystidiosa, red cap/white stipe, unbruising, but taste is mild, spore print is light/creamy, and Kuo says it's NJ to IL.

12/12 Update! I got another specimen near where I found this one and tasted it! It was spicy! Another puzzle piece! Waiting on a spore print to confirm its the same species.
I also went to pick another and the entire skin of the stipe pulled up with the cap, but it was entirely hollow bc larvae had taken over the insides. I feel bad removing a safe place for bugs to grow so I'll pick less of these as time goes on. I do think it's funny that its spicy though bc I saw on with a bite taken out of it a week or so ago. Funny how that animal didn't finish the whole thing. Regardless, I don't want to affect the ecosystem too much more than I have already in my pursuit of answers.

Publicado el diciembre 12, 2022 03:42 TARDE por aureleah_aurita aureleah_aurita | 3 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

11 de diciembre de 2022

Aurelia in NC

I never ID Aurelia to species because it's known to be difficult to ID without genetic sampling and I’m hesitant to make anything Research Grade if I’m not certain . But someone studying jellies ID’d an NC moon jelly observation as A. marginalis and I wondered if there was a way to ID Aurelia based on location alone and decided to write down my notes for moon jellies on here as well.

In 2009 Calder said A. aurita is boreal and only found north of Delaware and A. marginalis is found from Delaware to Florida.

But this paper from 2021 (which cites Calder, 2009) says the distribution of A. marginalis is the Gulf of Mexico and A. aurita can be found in Northeastern USA. North Carolina is uniquely situated at the base of the Labrador current as well as along the Gulf stream so we often have high biodiversity of species from each direction so I'm reluctant to say A. aurita can't be found here.

WoRMS also shows A. marginalis limited to the Gulf of Mexico

WoRMS also says A. aurita's distribution in the Northwest Atlantic is inaccurate ("Taxon was cited for this area but it is clear that it does not live there") and seems to only show it present in the Gulf of St Lawrence so I'm as lost as ever for my favorite jellies, which is my favorite place to be! It’s fun following these mysterious ocean creatures as we unravel all their mysteries!

Publicado el diciembre 11, 2022 07:20 TARDE por aureleah_aurita aureleah_aurita | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

05 de diciembre de 2022

NC's *Atrina* Pen Shells

I know of three pen shells here in NC.

Sawtooth pen shells Atrina serrata is the easiest to ID because it's the most ribbed (30 narrow riblets) and has hundreds of short hollow prickles (Witherington)

The other two are very hard to tell apart for me and I'm not sure many RG observations are correct because people don't realize there are two very similar species in the area.

First we have stiff pen shells Atrina rigida. My Audobon field guide says its 5-11 inches long with 15-20 radiating ribs. The upper ribs are large and bear "many erect, hollow, sometimes tubular spines"

The field guide goes onto say that the half-naked pen shell Atrina seminuda was formerly confused with A. rigida. It says the half-naked pen shell is "slightly smaller, thinner, more narrow, and lighter in color"

My beachcomber's guide says half-naked pen shells "have about 15 radiating ribs bearing few to dozens of long tubular spines"

The best way to ID those two that I know of requires pictures of the inside of the shell. The half-naked pen shell A. seminuda has the posterior muscle scar is "wholly within the pearly area" (FGS) and Witherington says it's "completely within the shiny (or cloudy) nacreous area"

The stiff pen shell A. rigida has a "large muscle scar protruding above edge of pearly layer" (FGS) and (Witherington) says in their words that the posterior muscle scar is "outside the shiny nacre"

I also wanted to note that the Beachcomber's Guide by Witherington and Witherington mentions their habitat and I wonder if that's useful in IDing as well. It says sawtooth and half-naked pen shells live in colonies out to 20 ft. It says stiff pen shells A. rigida live in bays and sounds.

In summary:

Stiff Pen Shell A. rigida
-Muscle scar outside of nacre
-15-20 ribs
-Lives from low-tide line to water 90' deep (Audubon FGS)
-Lives in bays and sounds (Witherington)

Half-naked pen shell A. seminuda
-Smaller muscle scar within nacre
-15 ribs
-Lives in colonies buried in soft sediment out to 20 ft

Publicado el diciembre 5, 2022 07:22 TARDE por aureleah_aurita aureleah_aurita | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

The Two NC Baby's Ears

Another tricky to ID shell can be the Common Atlantic Baby's Ear Sinum perspectivum or the similar Spotted Baby's Ear Sinum maculatum

Here is a forum post with lots of great comparison pictures:

Publicado el diciembre 5, 2022 04:54 TARDE por aureleah_aurita aureleah_aurita | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

26 de noviembre de 2022

Eastern Banded Tulips of NC

I find myself regularly looking up this paper: A Review of the Living Cinctura Banded Tulip Shells (Gastropoda: Fasciolariidae), with the Descriptions of Four New Subspecies and a New Subgenus by Edward J. Petuch and David P. Berschauer. Published 2020 in the Festivus Volume 52 Issue 4 Pages 316-334.

So I wanted to post what I look at the most here so it'll be easier to review.

Off the North Carolina coast, we have two Cinctura spp.

First, we have Cinctura hunteria Perry, 1811, which is a synonym of Fasciolaria distans Lamarck, 1822. This is the widest ranging Cinctura species, extending from Cape Hatteras, NC to around almost all of the Florida coast until the Apalachicola Bay, where the freshwater from the river acts as a barrier between C. hunteria and the Western subspecies C. hunteria apalachee. This species prefers intertidal sand flats and is associated with beds of sea grasses and is also found in tidal pools. The base color is cream-white or bluish-white overlaid with bluish-brown or dark khaki-green stripes. The number of dark bands on the body whorl varies from 5-6, with most specimens having 5 lines. Occasionally, specimens will have few finer lines in between the larger bands. Some specimens have scattered bright orange bands and patches, especially along subsutural area of shoulders and on parietal area of the aperture. Siphonal canal is very short and broad- it's the least developed of all the species with 12-14 cords. The early postnuclear whorls are smooth and unornamented. (Page 318)

A little further out from Cape Hatteras to about halfway down Florida's Atlantic coast, we have Cinctura keatonorum Petuch, 2014 found 30-50m offshore on areas of shell hash and coarse sand and is often associated with calico scallop beds. Calico scallops Argopecten gibbus carolinensis are a commercial fishery item, so C. keatonorum is often collected as a bycatch of scallop dredging. The base color is pale-salmon orange overlaid with irregular, narrow, dark orange-tan or salmon orange flammules (flame-shaped markings). This species has 6 thin, prominent, dark brown lines with thin, less developed lines sometime present. The parietal area has a bright-orange-tan glaze. The siphonal canal is short with 7 large raised cords. The postnuclear whorls are ornamented with sulci and knobs which can be suppressed by prominent spiral grooves. It's larger and more elongated with a higher and more protracted spire than C. hunteria. Look for the salmon-ornage color and heavily sculptured grooved early whorls to tell it apart. (Page 323)

Publicado el noviembre 26, 2022 06:15 TARDE por aureleah_aurita aureleah_aurita | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

09 de septiembre de 2022


When Science Across NC created Mushroom Quest to encourage mushroom observations from Sept 23-26, I decided it was time to get really into mushrooms, haha! Back in Biology 2, my professor tasked us with going to out to find mushrooms from each of the major groups so I had already had a basic familiarity with them.

Armed with A Field Guide to Mushrooms of the Carolinas by Bessette, Bessette, and Hopping, I started practicing identifying almost every mushroom I come across, even the frustrating brittlegills and those darn blue-staining boletes. One day I'd love to get a microscope with a camera to upload spore pictures... One day.

I've learned there are many puffballs of different shapes and that most white fairy rings I see are poisonous green-spored parasols.

Puffballs were my favorite until I finally found a Lactarius mushroom! I've always loved watching videos of people nicking the gills to see the latex bead up

Observations of fungi I've stumbled across

Edited to add: As I learn, I’m mostly using Michael Kuo’s MushroomExpert website and the book A Field Guide to Mushrooms of the Carolinas by Bessette, Bessette, and Hopping. When I’m referencing information to one of those sources in my own notes of observations I’ll put (Kuo) or (BBH) to indicate where I got the info from

Publicado el septiembre 9, 2022 04:41 TARDE por aureleah_aurita aureleah_aurita | 26 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

Beach Combing: A Journey

I've always had some basic familiarity with NC seashells thanks to my local aquarium but I didn't start beach combing until April 2022. When I started, I was excited to learn how to ID moon snails using the umbo. I got bored with all the arks being the most common intact shells, but still haven't tried to learn the difference between transverse, blood, incongruous, ponderous, etc. I hope to soon.
I have yet to find a shark's tooth!

Observations are what I've found on the beach near me

Publicado el septiembre 9, 2022 04:31 TARDE por aureleah_aurita aureleah_aurita | 42 observaciones | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

NC BioBlitz 2022

Science Across NC promoted a BioBlitz during City Nature Challenge and it was a great introduction into iNaturalist. I logged so many things I'd never even seen before and it taught me to be more aware of the details in nature around me. There are so many critters everywhere you look if you look closely. I learned what assassin bugs and antlions are! @as_is_the_sea brought me to salt marshes, gardens, and maritime forests and I learned so much about those ecosystems as she taught me how to use iNat. I learned that I find it very difficult to tell plants apart, but maybe one day that will change :)

This is the beginning of my iNat journey and the start of a long-time hobby.

Observations from NC BioBlitz April 29-May 2, 2022.

Publicado el septiembre 9, 2022 04:17 TARDE por aureleah_aurita aureleah_aurita | 190 observaciones | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario