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Oct. 10, 2008
First U.S. Sighting of Tiger Moth Reported at Falcon State Park
FALCON HEIGHTS, Texas-A species of tiger moth never before recorded in the United States was discovered last Friday, Oct. 3, at Falcon State Park in South Texas. Volunteer Park Naturalist Frances Bartle discovered the moth during a routine check at the park’s recreation hall.
Because the recreation hall has a light mounted outside, moths often accumulate there overnight, Bartle said. She was taking routine pictures of the moths when she noticed a species which she did not recognize and decided to send her photo to experts for identification.
"It was something unlike anything I had ever seen before," Bartle said.
Mike Quinn, an invertebrate biologist at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, received the e-mail with Bartle’s moth photo. He then sent it to lepidopterists around the world and soon heard back from moth experts in California, North Dakota, Canada and Great Britain.
Sunday morning, Martin R. Honey from the British Museum in London identified the moth as a form of the Phoenicoprocta lydia species, normally more common in Veracruz, Mexico, and never before been seen in the United States.
Quinn is calling the species a "Lydia Tiger Moth" because there is no official common name for this particular species.
"The taxonomy of this group of moths is in need of revision so there is a little wiggle room in regards to identification," Quinn said.
Not much is known about this moth besides the fact that it ranges from Mexico to Central America and is a day-flying moth (as opposed to nocturnal), he said. The extraordinary amount of rainfall in Starr County this year, 40 inches so far as compared to a typical annual average of 18 inches, is probably one factor contributing to the rare presence of this type of moth, Quinn said.
"This moth is a beautiful addition to the United States insect fauna and it gives us the opportunity to study the species and try to identify all the different forms this species takes," he said.
Quinn said Falcon State Park has an active butterfly and moth habitat program, including a butterfly garden. October and November are prime months to see abundant butterflies and moths in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Many butterfly tours and events comb the area, including the Texas Butterfly Festival in Mission Oct. 16-19.
Falcon State Park is also known for its birding. The park has recorded 129 species of birds, with more than 500 total bird species recorded in the surrounding South Texas-Tamaulipan ecoregion.
Visitors come from all over the globe to have the chance at adding an elusive species to their life list, since birds occur here that are seen nowhere else in the USA. Falcon Lake is also considered by many anglers to be one of the state’s best kept secrets for bass fishing. The current lake record bass is 15.12 pounds.
The park offers air conditioned and screened shelters for rent and 98 campsites able to accommodate all varieties of camping enthusiasts.
Bartle’s photo of the tiger moth is available for news media use as a high resolution .jpg file in the News Images area of the TPWD Web site.
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