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Natural Perspectives: The moth-er of all trips

August 27, 2012|By Vic Leipzig and Lou Murray
(Courtesy Lou Murray )

Vic and I are really enjoying our new hobby of mothing. And it isn't just about drinking wine with friends while sitting outdoors on a warm summer night. Sometimes actual moths are involved.

This past Thursday in Silverado Canyon, there was no wine at all. Just some fascinating moths, beetles, bugs, mantids and even some spiders. You really never know what you're going to get. You set up a blacklight against a white sheet, sit in a folding camp chair and wait to see what comes.

I enjoy this new hobby because I like taking photographs of interesting things, and because I'm learning a lot about the world of insects in the process.

Larry Shaw, director of operations at Orange County Vector Control District, is a professional entomologist who sets up the lights along with Gary Meredith, a committed moth-er, and "Bug Bob" Allen, author and expert on local flowers and insects. Vic and I are learning from the best.

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Vic is picking up some good knowledge that he can use in his biology and natural history classes. I'm getting photos that he plans to use in his classes. And of course, it's always fun to watch grown men crawling on the ground, assuming crazy positions as they try to get the perfect shot of some new moth, beetle or bug.

For my money, the prettiest insect of the evening was a golden-eyed lacewing. This translucent insect was as delicate and as lacy-looking as its name sounds. With its pink abdomen, tan and pink striped thorax and captivating greenish-gold eyes, it was stunning. Well, as stunning as a skinny something only a half-inch long can be.

Lacewings prey upon aphids and other garden pests. As you probably know, aphids are tiny insects that suck the life out of everything from roses to rutabagas. Aphids are scourges that nobody wants in their gardens.

I'm thrilled when I see a lacewing in the garden, because I know that its larvae will feed voraciously on any aphids they find. Adult lacewings enjoy nectar from sunflowers, coreopsis, cosmos and dill, so I will plant more of those in my garden next year in hope of attracting more lacewings.

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