Meet Caroline

Caroline grew up at Riveredge, or as she calls it, “the best backyard you can ever imagine”. Riveredge gave her a place to get out and explore nature and simulated a deep love of the outdoors that helped shape her future.

Today Caroline is in Washington D.C. completing a prestigious fellowship with the NOAA and has spent time studying invasive species in Lake Michigan and presenting her research to the entire nation.

Riveredge helped Caroline realize that science was not just a hobby but could actually be a career. 

We’re building a movement to bring the outdoors to families, schools, and neighborhoods. There’s so many Carolines out there just waiting to be inspired. We need your help to inspire them.

Please contribute to the movement today. Your support means everything. 


Bug of the Week – Red Admiral Butterfly

Salutations BugFans,

Red admiral butterflies hold a special place in the BugLady’s heart (along with the “ickybug” of recent BOTW fame); Red Admirals were an important “entry level” bug during the BugLady’s childhood (more about that in a sec).   This is a complete overhaul of a way-too-short episode that appeared in October of 2008.

red admiral15 3rz

Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta)

Red admiral

Red admiral

Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta) belong to the largest butterfly family, the Nymphalidae or Brush-footed butterflies. Their antennae are very “knobbed,” and their two front legs are covered with bristles and reduced in size (so they have, effectively, only two pairs of walking legs). There are two broods of RAs per summer in most of the north, and there are two “forms” – a slightly smaller and less flashy winter form and a larger, more intensely-colored summer form.

They are strong, fast, somewhat erratic flyers with a wingspread of two inches, plus-or-minus, and distinctly-colored upper wing surfaces, but an RA that’s sitting with its wings folded is pretty well camouflaged. At a quick glance, the only butterflies that might be mistaken for a Red Admiral are (possibly) the Painted Lady, and the Milbert’s Tortoiseshell, a butterfly noted for population swings, but one that has been absent from the BugLady’s vistas for so long that she doesn’t even have a digital picture of one

Painted lady

Painted lady

RAs have population eruptions and they wander (and nobody really knows why), and so, to varying degrees, do the other Vanessas – the Painted Lady, American Lady, and the West Coast Lady. The Painted Lady (of previous BOTW fame) is said to be the most widely distributed butterfly globally and is found in temperate regions of four continents plus Central America (and scientists do think they know why Painted Lady’s roam). The American Lady is considered “somewhat migratory,” and as its name suggests, the West Coast Lady is found from the Pacific through eastern Colorado.

American lady

American lady

The RA’s range is only a little smaller than the Painted Lady’s, and within that range it’s found in many habitats – suburbs, parks, gardens, wooded edges and trails, around wetlands, bottomlands, damp fields, and ditches – anywhere it can be close to the various species of nettles that are its caterpillar’s food plants. Most sources restrict the caterpillars to nettles, but a few add to the list thistles, willows, and/or members of the plant family Cannabaceae (yes, that plant family), a family that, the BugLady was surprised to discover, is primarily made up of hackberries and hops. Adults are seen nectaring on flowers, but they prefer non-floral calories from fermenting fruit, animal scat, and sap oozes on tree trunks.

Males are said to defend territories in clearings and semi-sunny edges in the late afternoon and to scout for females from perches that they revisit. The subject of whether the males are truly territorial or simply chase everything until they determine its species and gender is somewhat up in the air (butterfly eyesight – not 20:20). Intruders get chased upwards in a spiral and out over the treetops. Find a technical discussion of territorial behavior at

Females fly slowly and purposefully in search of host plants.

Butterflies scratch a leaf’s surface with raspy spots at the bottom of their tarsi and then sample (smell/sense/taste) the chemistry. If the RA recognizes it, she will lay an egg on the top surface of a host plant leaf. A caterpillar folds a leaf around itself and shelters inside, leaving the leaf to feed or to form a larger tent. The larval stage lasts about a month; the caterpillar makes a pupal case by sewing several leaves together and hanging inside it, head down

(pictures of all stages are at

Wandering RAs started showing up in numbers in the second week in May (along with some Painted Ladies), but, well, there’s some question about that, too. In the more southerly parts of their range, both adults and pupae hibernate. Ebner, in Butterflies of Wisconsin (1970) says that,” a few individuals may overwinter as adults in Wisconsin, emerging in the balmy days of late April and May.” RAs are known to overwinter as adults as far north as New York. Whether they are newly-awakened or newly-arrived, our April-May RAs initiate the two broods. Brood #1, the larger, showier summer brood will be coming out by the start of July. They produce the winter form, seen from late August through the first frosts. From what the BugLady reads, the winter crew is non-reproductive (like the Gen. 5 Monarch butterflies) and they pack away fat reserves that allow them to migrate or to hibernate. Whatever their winter strategy, they become reproductively mature the following spring.

This was the Bug Lady’s natal butterfly – her favorite insect as a kid. If she stood for a while on the lawn, a red admiral would fly over and sit on her out-stretched hand and sometimes eat a little salty sweat as she admired it.

One older source says that butterflies and moths void a drop of liquid (red, in some species) soon after leaving their pupal cases. They sometimes do this while airborne, and when large numbers of butterflies emerged simultaneously, the phenomenon, called “Red Rain” was, in ancient times and is still today, the subject of wild religious fear, superstition, repentance and/or massacre.

As always, the BugLady recommends Door 3, repentance.


Kate Redmond, The BugLady


And, on a dragonfly note – if you see a milky strand at the water’s surface in a wetland near you, and if you’re lucky, it could be the egg strand of a baskettail dragonfly.


Baskettail eggs

Baskettail eggs

Bug of the Week archives:

A National ‘Natural Leader’ In Training

Riveredge Nature Center is thrilled to announce that we have a national ‘Natural Leader’ heading off to training camp at the end of June. Cassie Bauer, our new Family & Community Programs Manager, was one of only 50 diverse young leaders chosen to participate in this transformative program.

Of the program and her involvement, Cassie says: “I am thrilled to share that in the last month I have applied for and been chosen to attend a community leadership training through the Children & Nature Network initiative known as Natural Leaders. In just 30 days I will pack my bags and head to a US Fish & Wildlife National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

The Natural Leaders Network is helping to build the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts and environmental stewards by fueling a grassroots network to reconnect children, families, and communities to the outdoors. Diverse young leaders are selected through a competitive application process to participate in the Natural Leaders Legacy Camp, where they are trained to create change within their communities to promote outdoor nature-based experiences. The training curriculum focuses on four key skill areas that prepare young leaders to return to their communities and create lasting change.”

Cassie will be instrumental in helping Riveredge use our resources, expertise, and passion to bring the great outdoors to families, schools, and neighborhoods in the coming year.  She’ll help launch local Family Nature Clubs, Riveredge’s part of the national Every Kid in the Part program, and starting a Children & Nature Alliance of Southeastern Wisconsin.

Cassie expands, “I look forward to absorbing knowledge from the 49 other attendees, fully participating in all this camp has to offer, and sharing my experiences with Riveredge and our community upon my return. Happy Trails!”

Good luck and best wishes Cassie as embark on this exciting path toward becoming a national Natural Leader!

A Symbolic Migration

The sturgeon homeschool (grades 6-8) sent paper “symbolic migrating ambassador butterflies” to Mexico as part of an international conservation effort to highlight the importance of the Monarch butterflies to the people of the United States, Canada and Mexico. Last fall, when the monarch butterflies left Wisconsin to migrate to Mexico, each Sturgeon homeschooler created a symbolic […]

A Special Broadcast


with John Gurda

premieres Wednesday, April 22, at 8 pm on Milwaukee Public TV/Channel 10 

Riveredge was fortuante to have John film parts of this documentary during our 2013 & 2014 Sturgeon release event – Sturgeon Fest.  We encourage all to learn more about Milwaukee and the historic significance of water in our home region.

Water was the resource that put Milwaukee on the map.  It ensured that there would be a harbor here — the best on the western shore of Lake Michigan — and that settlers would come here to earn a living.  The city’s rivers were harnessed to grind flour and saw lumber, to tan leather, cool machinery, and brew the residents’ favorite beverage.

Water has been an important resource for play, too.  Our waterways have hosted canoe clubs, beer gardens, swimming schools, ice races, and amusement parks.  In 1929, Lincoln Memorial Drive debuted as one of the most spectacular stretches of shoreline on the Great Lakes.

MILWAUKEE: A CITY BUILT ON WATER, written and hosted by historian John Gurda, tells the full story of our relationship with local waterways in a fast-paced one-hour documentary, richly illustrated with rare film and photos.  

I thought you would have a special interest in the program, and invite you to join us for its premiere broadcast this coming Wednesday, April 22, from 8-9 pm, only on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10.  Here’s a preview:

Gurda takes the story up to the present day, documenting how we have developed the areas along our lake and rivers, the history of abuses of our waterways, and today’s efforts to revive and preserve this most important resource.  He recently wrote about the production in his column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

MILWAUKEE: A CITY BUILT ON WATER reunites the production team of Gurda and producer Claudia Looze, who were primarily responsible for the multi-Emmy Award-winning MPTV mini-series THE MAKING OF MILWAUKEE.

Produced in cooperation with WisconsinEye, MILWAUKEE: A CITY BUILT ON WATER  has been funded by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, Lynde B. Uihlein, the Brookby Foundation, the Fund for Lake Michigan, Badger Meter Foundation, and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.

If you are unable to watch the premiere broadcast, you can catch these repeat airings: Thursday, April 23, at 9 pm on Channel 36; Friday, April 24, at 3 am on Channel 10; and Monday, April 27, at 4 am on Channel 36.  You will also be able to view the entire program after its initial broadcast at


Joining the Movement

There’s something about knowing you are not alone in your passion about the need to get outside.  Not that we ever thought we were, but, sometimes, in the field of environmental education you start to wonder if others, outside of your field, understand this need.  We have the luxury of seeing, first hand, the transformation in a child when they climb a tree, run through the prairie, or hold a frog in their hand.  We’ve observed the power of nature.

This past week, four members of the Riveredge staff had the privilege of becoming deeply connected with an international movement to intertwine the lives of children with that of nature – in every aspect of society.  The three-day Children & Nature Network Conference brought together leaders from the conservation, health, education, technology and built environment communities to explore ways to encourage families, schools, churches, non-profits and businesses to support getting kids off the couch and into nature.

Jessica Jens (Executive Director), Sunny Knutson (Director of Education), Mandie Zopp (Director of Research & Conservation), and Carrie Hiestand (Inquiry-Based Learning Specialist) attended all three days of this conference.  The first day was dedicated to discussions related to the role of technology in the outdoors.  As Riveredge has committed to addressing the need to develop best practices of appropriate integration of mobile technology in nature, we were very intrigued by this day’s content.  We came away inspired to continue efforts to find the appropriate intersection of time unplugged and the use of technology as an engagement tool in the outdoors.  We were inspired by Melina Gerosa Bellows, the Chief Education Officer of the National Geographic Society, when she said “If they (children) grow up to explore the world, then surely the world will be a better place,” and Richard Louv who asked, “Where is the lobby for balance? (as opposed to an all or nothing approach to embracing technology)”  We are in agreement that this balance can be identified and shared with parents, schools, and others in the field of nature.   We will achieve that in the months and years to come at Riveredge.

The final two days of the conference were focused on the movement to reconnect society with nature. As Louv explained, the vision for this movement is to “create a nature-rich future that is good for all.”  We couldn’t agree more.  Beginning this very moment, Riveredge is developing strategies to progress this movement in southeastern Wisconsin and the entire state. We are working to develop not only partnerships, but collaborations filled with charismatic ideas and made up of partners throughout all areas of society. Dr. Scott Sampson, author, personality, and VP of Research & Collections at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, challenged, “We better collaborate and think big.  Big ideas win.”  We, at Riveredge, are up for that challenge.  In the coming year we’ll be:

  • Implementing the pilot program of our Riveredge School Naturalist/Scientist in Residence program with a local school district and speaking to all area school districts about expanding this program to their students and teachers.
  • Joining the National Parks effort to get  “Every Kid in a Park” by providing all the incoming 4th grade students in Sheboygan, Washington, and Ozaukee counties with trail pass memberships to Riveredge for their entire family from September 2015-August 2016.  As the National Parks Director, Jonathan B. Jarvis, explained at the conference, “Notice that the name of this initiative is not ‘Every Kid in a National Park,’ it’s ‘Every Kid in a Park.'” Riveredge is dedicated to making this happen for our local communities.
  • Leading efforts to create “Family Nature Clubsin our local communities.  As Louv asks, “What if more and more parents, grandparents and kids around the country band together to create outdoor adventure clubs, family nature networks, family outdoor clubs, or green gyms? What if this approach becomes the norm in every community?”  At Riveredge, we believe that bringing these efforts to our communities will help hundreds of families build memories and gain the benefits of time outdoors (increased health, decreased stress, increased creativity….and lots more)!

The take away – Riveredge is committed to improving the lives of our communities through time in nature.  We will bring our expertise, experience, and resources into our communities. We will bring together leaders in the areas of health, architecture, government, and education to help us build the movement.  We will do our part to make this world an even better place for this and future generations of kids who can grow up outdoors. Kids we like to call “Riveredge Kids.”

Bug o’the Week – The Very Unexpected Cycnia

Howdy, BugFans,


Recently, the BugLady fielded an email from a woman in a nearby village asking for an ID of a caterpillar she had photographed in her suburban yard last summer.  The BugLady found out who the caterpillar was, but she had a niggling feeling that she had photographed and misidentified this odd-looking larva, and both turned out to be true.  The next question was “where?”  She browsed through some other pictures she had taken the same day in 2011 and decided that she had photographed it on the prairie at Riveredge Nature Center.


The Unexpected Cycnia.  What a dynamite name for this moth in the Tiger and Lichen moth family Erebidae (formerly part of the family Arctiidae)!  The UC (Cycnia inopinatus) (inopinatus being Latin for “unexpected” or “surprising.”) is found in the US east of the Great Plains into Massachusetts, and south into Mexico.  Sources say that it prefers “high quality coastal scrub (including the Great Lakes drainage), dry, oak barrens, and similar native grasslands, typically on sand.”  Its populations are described as “rare and local.”  In fact, according to a 2005 USDA Forest Service report called “Conservation Assessment for the unexpected tiger moth (Cycnia inopinatus (Edwards)),” “It is never common (except on a very local level) and most states contain only one or a few populations.”  The UC’s status in Wisconsin is listed as S2S3: (S2 – “rare or uncommon;”  S3 – “imperiled because of rarity.”


Once established in their rather specialized habitats, UCs tend to stay put, dispersing maybe several hundred yards during their adult lives.  The exception is when a population takes advantage of a natural corridor lined with caterpillar food plants, like a railroad right-of-way.


UC caterpillar food plants are various milkweeds, especially butterfly weed and whorled milkweed, but common milkweed, not so much.  The theory is that the narrower-leaved species of milkweed contain higher concentrations of the cardenolide chemicals that form the basis of the caterpillars’ defense system (their dense hair is off-putting to predators, too).  Like the monarch and the milkweed bug, the aposematically-colored UC caterpillars ingest toxins from milkweed and therefore are toxic themselves.  Despite the poisons, UC caterpillars and pupae are eaten by birds, some rodents, spiders, and a few insects; and parasitic wasps and tachinid flies target the larvae in behalf of their parasitoid offspring.


The unobtrusive but subtly beautiful adults,,, look very similar to the dogbane tiger moth (Cycnia tenera) (but their caterpillars don’t resemble each other).  Sogaard, in “Moths and Caterpillars of the North Woods,” notes that the male dogbane tiger moths “produce clicks (mostly ultrasonic but faintly audible to humans) in response to ultrasonic pulses from hunting bats, and in courtship,” and that “males release pheromones when near potential mates.” The BugLady assumes that the UC has these capabilities, too.  Sogaard also notes that “Males deprived experimentally of both sound production and pheromones were shunned.”  UC moths don’t migrate, don’t stray far from milkweeds, and probably don’t feed.


There may be two broods a year in this area, with adult flight periods in spring and late summer (the BugLady’s caterpillar was photographed in early September).  Females deposit white eggs on milkweed stems and leaves; the eggs hatch and larvae feed for about a month, adding more hairs in each clump at each molt.  An alarmed larva will drop off of a leaf to the ground and hustle through the thatch.  The color of a caterpillar’s bristles can be pale or dark, or in-between.  Caterpillars form a pupal case on the ground


The list of threats to the UC includes the usual suspects – loss/fragmentation of its once-widespread habitat due to agricultural clearing, grazing, development, and fire suppression (which allows normal succession of communities/habitats); competition from sun-loving invasive species like black locust; and exposure to a variety of often-non-specific pesticides that are used to control gypsy moths, agricultural pests and weeds.  Ironically, the fires that once perpetuated its habitat threaten the moths, which overwinter as pupae in leaf litter below their old food plants, highly susceptible to controlled burns in winter and early spring.


In the course of her research, the BugLady came across the Monarch Lab website  Researchers at the Monarch Lab are interested in tracking the location of the UC, too, so if you find a caterpillar, please report it to them at; remember to include the location of your sighting, and a photo would be grand.


Kate Redmond

The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:

Bug o’the Week – Eyed Elater Click Beetle

Howdy, BugFans,


This BOTW is rejuvenated from a 2008 episode.


If you look up “Icky-bug” in an insect book, it will not lead you to this beetle, nor anywhere else, for that matter.  In their youths, the BugLady’s sisters had huge (HUGE) aversions to these blameless beetles.  Consequently, the BugLady was sometimes compelled to put a few beetles in little boxes and gift her sisters with them, enjoying the resulting agitation (acts for which, alas, she feels no remorse).


click aeolus mellilus13 11

Aeolus mellilus

“Icky-bugs” are actually Click beetles (family Elateridae), a.k.a snapping beetles or skipjacks.  About a tenth of the world’s 9,300 species live in North America, occupying most habitats except very cold and very wet ones, and deserts.  Their elytra (hard wing covers) are grooved and pitted lengthwise and are often covered with slippery scales, and the long, slim shape is typical of the family.  The CBs of the BugLady’s youth were generally all-brown/all-black and maybe ½” to ¾”, but she has photographed some two-toned CBs, including (badly) a bright red and black individual (possibly Aeolus mellilus), and the awesome Eastern Eyed Elater.


CBs tend to be nocturnal (except in cool climates, when they are abroad during the heat of the day), and they’re attracted to lights at night (often entering houses).  In the tropics, some CBs use bioluminescence, like lightning beetles, making their own light as both adults and larvae; in this neck of the woods, they communicate via touch and smell.


The hard-coated click beetle grubs, which may spend four or more years in that stage, are sometimes called “wireworms” (especially the larger species); they live in soil or rotten wood or under bark.  Wireworms of the genus Melanotus enjoy eating corn, potatoes, grains and turf grasses (they are said to locate plant material in the soil by homing in on the carbon dioxide gradients as they travel about in tunnels made by other critters)(though they are perfectly capable of digging their own tunnels).  Some species of wireworms are important predators on agricultural pests in the soil; adults typically eat plant material but are not considered pests.  Moles, shrews, insectivorous birds, spiders and mantises are among their predators.  CBs overwinter as larvae or as adults.


A June bug that has flipped over onto its back may wallow around for a while, waving its legs and feeling sorry for itself, but the click beetle has a spiffy mechanism for righting itself immediately.  If you look at the ventral (underside) of these beetles you can see a spine that extends back from the first thoracic segment and you can see a matching grove on the second thoracic segment (unlike other beetles, its head and first thoracic segment can bend toward segments two and three).


Underside of a beetle

Underside of a beetle

To right itself, the click beetle first “arches”, then suddenly curls, and with an audible “click,” snaps the spur into the groove, which somersaults it into the air.  In his “Field Guide to Insects of North America,” Kaufman says that they are also called “jackknife beetles.”  The BugLady totally does not get the physics of this trick (the opposite arrangement – that the spring would be caused by the sudden release of the spine rather than by its sudden engagement – seems more plausible), but she accepts it, like pole vaulting, because the results are inarguable.


At any rate, the trick is used to get right-side-up  as well as to escape from predators (which will often drop an EE that performs a vigorous “click” while in-hand/beak).  Sometimes an EEE will launch itself into flight during the arc of its leap; more often it returns to earth, where it may tuck in its legs and play possum until its predator moves on.


The impressive EASTERN EYED ELATER or Big-eyed click beetle (Alaus oculatus) fell onto a burdock leaf as the BugLady mowed the grass nearby.  According to, there are six Alaus species in North America, one, appropriately named Alaus myops, has much smaller eyespots (find a nice account of the species at  An EEE measures an inch-and-a half long +, and an energetic “click” can send it several inches in the air (the BugLady has seen small EEs propel themselves six or more inches into the air).  Yes, it can fly:  Its spectacular “eyes” and mottled white speckles are said to provide good camouflage, and the false eyes are designed to terrify predators.  It feeds on nectar.  EEEs are found in woodlands throughout North America and well south into Central America.

click eyed08 1arz

The equally-impressive EEE Junior (, hatches from eggs laid in the soil and lives in dark, damp, decaying wood.  It uses its powerful jaws (which are described as looking like crab legs, and we are warned to handle with care!) to first tear/dismember and then to eat the other insect larvae it finds there, especially Cerambycid larvae (long-horned beetles).  It may live as long as five years as a larva, and as the good folks of the Galveston Master Gardeners say in their “Beneficial in the Garden” EEE biography, “all the longer to do its good works.”  They describe its feeding, thus: “the Eyed Elater larva is ferocious meat-eater that dines on many other noxious larvae, including those of wood-boring beetles, flies, and other undesirables.


Odd EEE factoid courtesy of Arthur V. Evans in “Beetles of Eastern North America:” the adults “are sometimes attracted to solvents and freshly-painted surfaces.”  In his “Bugeric” blog, entomologist Eric Eaton explains that these aromatic scents are reminiscent of the odor of freshly cut trees.


Kate Redmond

The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:

Join Our Tree Climbing Team

Love recreational tree climbing?

It’s hard to explain the feeling when you are climbing a tree and spend a quiet moment among its top branches–the rustle of the leaves in the wind, the feeling of closeness to nature. To mold and inspire responsible environmental decision making and behavior, you must first transform minds into ones that love the natural world.  To do this, one must create authentic opportunities to be touched by nature.  This is why we believe so strongly in recreational tree climbing at Riveredge.  Its adventuresome approach lures youth and adults into the woods; its unique method of engaging participants with the trees within forests inspires a new way of thinking about nature.  The respect toward the trees which is modeled by the facilitators (each tree we climb even has its own name) challenges thinking in youth and adults. Discussions on the impact on the forest floor and steps taken to limit any harm to the trees teach about environmental responsibility. This is how recreational tree climbing actively, and effectively, helps promote responsible, adventuresome outdoor participation.

We want you as a tree climbing facilitator at Riveredge! The interest we’ve received in our recreational tree climbing program (started in 2014) has quickly exceeded our capacity.  We are looking for a crew of additional tree climbing facilitators.  Training fees will be covered in exchange for leading an amount of tree climbing programs for Riveredge. After that barter, you’ll be paid for any programs you lead!

Save the date for our tree climbing training week in June if you’re interested in learning more yourself -or- becoming a tree climbing facilitator.  Our friends from Tree Climbing Colorado and the Global Organization of Tree Climbers (GOTC) will be back in Wisconsin and leading both training opportunities:

  • Learn the basics of recreational tree climbing so you can climb trees in your own backyard: Sunday, June 7 – Monday, June 8.   Completion of this course will provide you with your Basic Tree Climbing approved training.  Cost: $495 (*free for tree climbing facilitators in training)
  • Learning those basics PLUS becoming a trained tree climbing facilitator for Riveredge: Sunday, June 7 – Thursday, June 11. Successful completion of course will provide you with your Basic Tree Climbing training plus Facilitators certification. Cost: free*

Come, join the fun team at Riveredge and bring groups of kids, families and adults into the tree tops! We’d love to have you join us.

For more information, read: Advanced Tree Climbing Opportunities @ Riveredge

Contact Jessica Jens, Executive Director, for additional details and to register (262-416-1068;

Bug o’the Week – Grass Looper

Howdy, BugFans,


The BugLady wishes that the Moth Namers (usually a pretty creative lot) had come up with a nicer name than “Forage looper” or the slightly better “Grass looper” for this pretty moth that appeared on her porch one night at the start of August.  Maybe with the word “tawny” or “caramel” in it (there’s variation within the species, of course; the males are generally grayer and the females, with their 1 ½” wingspreads, larger (


For the record, the BugLady is pretty sure that this is a Forage looper, (Caenurgina erechtea) instead of the very similar Clover Looper (C. crassiuscula).  Both occur across North America and southern Canada (not so much in the Great Plains), right up to the southern edge of the boreal forest, but the Clover looper is said to replace the larger and more common Grass looper in more northerly parts of Canada.  If the moths are challenging to differentiate, their caterpillars can be worse  The GL likes moist, well-vegetated, open fields, edges, and disturbed vegetation.


There are probably two broods in Wisconsin – a small, spring flight from pupae that were caterpillars the previous summer and that survived the challenges of winter (and spring), and a larger mid-summer flight that produces those caterpillars that overwinter.  GL moths may be seen by day or night through September.  Larvae tend to be more strongly nocturnal than their parents, and they are fairly specialized feeders, enjoying herbaceous (not woody) members of the pea/legume family, especially the clovers.  Grasses and ragweed have also been listed as food plants.


The GL has been a subject in a number of research projects that have searched for a correlation between a moth’s ability to hear and its anti-predator behavior.  Not surprisingly, it seems that although auditory acuity varies, moths that have “ears” (and GLs do) are likely to fly more frequently at night and to spend more time in flight than “earless” moths are.  Since finding a mate may require taking to the air, flight is an important exercise.  Moths with poorer hearing behave more like earless moths, hunkering down in the vegetation.


Researchers te Hofstede, et al, speculate that that this auditory advantage in the high-stakes game of finding a mate might result in the selection for/development of enhanced sensory equipment, but that moths apparently have maxed out their hearing development, so their energy goes into behavioral responses.  Other scientists have noted that moths that are exposed to ultrasound cut their flying time dramatically.  It has also been suggested that moths respond differently to the sound of a bat hunting far away vs a bat close-up (“Far-bat” triggers a leisurely retreat, while “Near-bat” inspires erratic flight or a quick landing).


One branch of the pest-control field, Electronic Pest Control, involves broadcasting short wavelength, high frequency sound waves both as a repellant and to interrupt breeding activity (so far, there have been inconsistent results over both the range of species and the range of devices.  Back to the drawing board).  The Pros: no chemicals leaching into the landscape.  The Cons: according to some sources, electronic pest control devices are not subject to the same kinds of federal scrutiny as chemical pesticides are.  The BugLady suspects that the use of ultrasound would result in significant collateral damage to “harmless,” eared insects and maybe to bats, which give us a pretty good assist in insect control.


GLs belong to the family Erebidae, a large family that was carved out of the Owlet family Noctuidae and that includes the underwing, tiger, tussock, lichen, snout, and zale moths, and more.  Erebids come in all sizes from micromoths to the Black Witch, with her five-inch wingspread, and they range in color from the well-camouflaged to the very-showy.  According to, “Erebidae” comes from the Greek “erebus,” which means “from the darkness.”


The BugLady’s favorite GL research moment came from this caption at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History.  “This appears to be a Forage Looper moth (Caenurgina erechtea), another one of our common enough neighbors that we would never see if we were not trying to find them or crawling through the grass. Sometimes rolling around on the ground can be very educational.




The BugLady