UH Hilo endemic moth collection is photographed for web-based database

Two alumni volunteers assist UH Hilo entomologist in creating a digital accession database of the moth for the university’s web-based Teaching and Research Arthropod Collection.

Agrotis baliopa
Agrotis baliopa

An entomologist and two alumni from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo have collaborated to create a digital accession database of an endemic moth collection donated to the university.

UH Hilo alumna Quinn Hamamoto (bachelor of arts in English), along with alumna Ellison Montgomery (bachelor of science from the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management), and Assistant Professor of Entomology Jesse Eiben, who serves as manager of the UH Hilo Teaching and Research Arthropod Collection (TRAC), collaborated to curate and digitize pictures of the endemic Hawaiian insects. The database is posted to the web as a way to raise awareness of the moths.

The insects were donated by Jon Giffin, a retired wildlife biologist with the Hawai‘i District office of the Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW). Giffin worked with research entomologists for many years as the go-to person for assisting with access and permits for Hawaiian insect research.

The UH Hilo TRAC lab was overjoyed to receive the donation for continued entomology research and teaching.

Montgomery photographed a large portion of the collection and created the digital accession database of the unique wing pattern diversity observed within endemic Agrotis species.

Endemic Hawaiian Noctuidae moths, in the genus Agrotis (commonly known as “Owlet Moths,” “Cutworm Moths,” etc), are a diverse group of moths that can be easily mistaken for their closely related, but introduced pest counterparts (ex. Agrotis ipsilon, the black cutworm moth). Due to this confusion, Hamamoto volunteered to work with the TRAC lab on a project for her graduate school program (master of science in library and information science, University of North Carolina at Greensboro).

These combined efforts resulted in a Wix-hosted website aimed to increase public and scientific awareness of these endemic Noctuidae moths. The wing pattern diversity shown on the website is intended to help the public, agriculturists, and scientists to identify better the endemic Noctuidae moths.

Other goals for the website include an increase in public appreciation for the moths, as well as to distinguish them from superficially similar pest moths.

This article was originally published in the Feb 2018 CAFNRM/Agriculture Club Newsletter.