By the Numbers

Quick quiz: How many species of birds are regularly seen in the U.S.? Butterflies? Moths? How many can you name?

Answer: There are about 800 regularly occurring species of birds, 575 species of butterflies, and a whopping 11,000 species of moths! While I can identify hundreds of birds, I can name fewer than 15 species of moths, a paltry showing considering the amazing diversity of night and day flying species. Assuming you may be as unfamiliar with moths as I am, let me share these three with you and, hopefully, spark an interest in learning more.

The top two are underwing moths in the family Noctuidae. There are many species of underwings (Catocala sp.), characterized by forewings that are perfectly camouflaged to blend in with tree bark, but whose hind wings are generally brightly colored in shades of orange, yellow, or pink. The bottom one is an Io moth in the family Saturniidae. The Saturniids include some of large and more recognizable moth species, including the Luna moth, Polyphemus moth, and Cecropia moth.

Sorry you have not seen a post from me in a few weeks. I’ve been juggling my regular work with planning and developing new art workshop content. I may continue to be less consistent in the weeks ahead, but I hope to be back in the saddle soon.

28 Comments on “By the Numbers

  1. Thank you for posing this interesting challenge question at the beginning of your post! I had no idea!! And I have already begun to learn some very interesting things from you… Had no idea about the different types of moth wings. So fascinating!

  2. How interesting and so beautifully done Jean. I had no idea about the number of birds, butterflies and moths. Fascinating info!!
    I have taken a few photos of moths that I’ve spotted on flora and fauna in gardens both in Pennsylvania and now in Florida. You’ve inspired me to capture them with watercolor in my journal.

    Dorothy Person

  3. Very interesting facts! I love numbers, so this was fun to learn. I saw a glimpse of a small pink moth last year (WA state) flitting about the grasses by a pond and initially thought it was a butterfly. Upon researching, I suspect it was a Cinnabar day flying moth! Most moths fly at night, but this one flys during the day. Life does get busy, but whenever you post it is special & magical!

  4. I’ve noticed that my Sunday mornings weren’t as colorful, but this is lovely! Good luck with the workshop.

  5. Yowza! You always know just the right post loaded with inspiration. Maybe us birders should turn into “moth-ers?” Hahahah! A beautiful piece, Jean. Thanks for sharing and have fun with those new workshops.

  6. as usual you open my eyes even more and just when I think I cant cram another thing in !.. our tulip trees are yelling with joy and always think of how beautifully you would draw them… in all their stages… I am just hoping all this wonderfulness you share will someday be gathered in a beautifully illustrated book… .

    • Thanks Sandra– I bet you can cram in a bit more! Lucky you to have flowering trees blooming. Wow…we’re still on snow. But I did see a few grackle scouts today, so the blackbirds are not far behind.

  7. I’m reading the books of Dave Goulson lately and it’s the kind of wildlife that gets me so intrigued! Love the moths you show here. And isn’t it funny that their caterpillars are often way more spectacular than the moth itselfs (while for butterflies, I often find it’s the other way ’round)

  8. Have been wondering how you are getting on. All the best with the new art workshop content. Beautiful moth paintings!

    • Do I see Virginia Bluebells on sandidureice’s notice? Even if they’re not, the picture has me dreaming of spring!

    • Thanks Sandi– I’ve got to get ready for Italy and Maine, plus a few shorter workshops in between. I’ve launched Drawn to Nature II, so that’s fun…but also took quite a bit of research and planning. It’s a good time of year for it, I guess, as it’s still really cold here. Hope your art is going well!

  9. Moths intrigue me. I had know idea there are so many kinds. I love to watch for them on summer evenings. This post makes me long for those nights.

    • You are so right…moths and summer nights go together, which makes the window to see them rather short here in the Northeast. Studying and sketching them in the off-season helps me prepare for seeing and identifying them from life.

  10. Wonderful eye candy, Jean.
    Lepidoptera fascinated me as a child and I still find them intriguing. Thanks for the numbers! I wonder which of the categories included skippers? If they wound up as butterflies, as Wikipedia suggests, the number of moths is even more astounding.
    Your art always leaves me breathless. Sooo special.

  11. Interesting, Jean, I like those statistics. I wouldn’t have thought there are more species of birds than there are of butterflies. And moths, wow.

  12. Beautiful, Jean! I adore moths, and some of us get together to participate in Moth ID get-togethers during Moth Week. But 11,000 species!?! I knew there were a lot but that number is astounding and wonderful. I actually keep a journal devoted to Moths. Looking forward to your upcoming classes and workshops. Sorry I’m still working on the grid project from the last “awesome” workshop, but it’s slowly coming along. I’m prone to getting carried away.

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