In 2019, my buddy Alex and I decided to head back to Mendocino NF and check out the area we had visited in 2018. The traffic on the dirt roads was about the same compared to the previous year but the area was a tad bit drier this time around, making it more dusty than before. As we headed to the campsite, we noticed that there was a little less greenery than the previous year and a noticeable dip in the water levels of the nearby creeks and ponds. Despite all of these observations we were hopeful to see more interesting species both during the day and at night.
A Collecting Equipment Experiment
After arriving at the campsite we quickly set everything up, moth sheet included, and explored the area a bit before the sun went down. There were a couple plants in bloom but not quite as many as the previous year and we noticed there were much fewer tent caterpillar clusters as well. We found a few small moths nectaring on a bush whose ID I was unsure of, and encountered the resident deer who had visited us last year.
There were a couple more insects around the area, such as a Tenebrionid (Darkling beetle), carpenter ants (Camponotus sp.), and some muscid flies. We looked for a little while longer but after diminishing returns from the surrounding area, we decided it was time to set up the new trap Alex had created.
He had made a modified version of a traditional bucket trap and added a couple features that made it a very effective, stand alone, collecting apparatus. It has a very simple, yet effective design. He used a regular 5 gallon bucket and secured a funnel into the bucket with small bungee cords. The bulb is a UV tube light similar to what bioquip uses, and it can be connected and disconnected to an external battery.
The battery itself is a small 12V battery that can hold a charge with the UV light on for about 6-8 hours and was placed into a small box that kept the exposed connectors and wires protected from the elements. Once the light was connected to the battery, the light was placed horizontally on top of the bucket and left alone for the rest of the night. We also ended up deciding to go with acetone as the knockdown agent for the insects that flew into the trap. We had the moth sheet light on for a few hours, but the bright moon made for some very lackluster collecting and we ended up turning in early. There were only a few notable species that made it to the sheet that night and one of which was actually a first for me.
Two sphingids, Smerinthus cerisyi and Sphinx drupiferarum appeared in a decent number, but the surprise came in the form of Antheraea polyphemus. I was not expecting to see this species here at all! The slightly tattered poly landed away from the sheet and at first I thought it was a lighter colored Hyalophora euryalus, but was pleasantly surprised to find that it was indeed a polyphemus moth instead. After the brief burst of activity at the sheet, we decided to let the bucket traps do the rest and called it a night.
The next morning we packed up everything and went to collect the buckets and their contents. We were surprised to see such little insect density in the traps, but were glad to see two large Hyalophora euryalus moths had made it into one of the buckets. With this being the trial run for these bucket traps I would say they are fairly efficient and with a little modification can be even more effective. What we found was the UV light that was used seemed to only attract moths, so in the future, we may try lights varying brightness and UV signatures.
Overall, the traps were successful to our standards and because of this, Alex will most likely make more for future collecting trips and I will as well. We will most likely return to Mendocino NF this year (2020) and see how this year’s catch compares to the past two trips we have made out there.