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Outdoor Hour Challenge: Sphinx Moth Nature Study

The first time I saw a sphinx moth, I thought it was a hummingbird! It flew into my house and started flying around a vase of flowers we had on the kitchen table. It took a minute before I realized that it wasn’t a hummingbird but a very big flying insect. I have since seen several more while at the garden nursery and even in my own yard a few times when we lived in California.

I no longer think of these large flying insects as creepy but I include them in the Creepy Things series of Outdoor Hour Challenges so you can learn to appreciate their beauty too!


Outdoor Hour Challenge Sphinx Moth nature study

Don’t know what a sphinx moth is? Use these ideas to learn more:

  • Use an insect field guide to gather facts about the sphinx moth.
  • Use this link to learn more about the white lined sphinx moth.
  • Read lesson 75 in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.

See the Creepy Things ebook for more sphinx moth nature study ideas, videos, and printables!

Please note that I will not be posting the complete challenge here on the blog. You’ll find the detailed challenge in the Creepy Things ebook that’s available both in the Ultimate Naturalist and Journey level memberships. Sign into your account and download the ebook for the details, more links, and notebook pages.

Creepy Thing Ebook Cover imageAlternate study this week: Moths – Summer ebook and another moth study

If you don’t have a membership yet, click the graphic above and join today for immediate access to the 26 ebooks and so much more! Remember that all levels, even the Discovery level membership, include access to all of the archived newsletters!

Topics in this ebook include:

  • Banana slug
  • Tarantula
  • Black widow
  • Scorpion
  • Leech
  • Muskrat
  • Sphinx moth
  • Cicada
  • Millipede
  • Poison oak


Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020



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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Moth Nature Study


Outdoor Hour Challenge

Summer Moth Nature Study

From the Archives and from the Summer Nature Study ebook

This is an exciting nature study challenge! Use the suggestions in the archived post above to get started with your own moth study.

This is a nature study idea that’s as easy as turning on an outside light in the evening! The moths will come to you!

moth summer nature study

Moths are so much like butterflies in their variety and beauty. Don’t miss this special opportunity to be prepared for your next moth experience that will happen over the next season.


Use the free downloadable notebook pages for insects found in this entry: Ant Nature Study.


Outdoor Hour Challenge Summer Using Your Senses

Join us for this exciting series of nature study topics as we work through the Summer Nature Study – Using Your Senses ebook.

This ebook is found in the Ultimate level membership for you to download and use with your family. If you would like to gain access to this ebook, you can purchase a membership now and have instant access.

Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy


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Insects – Nature Study Using the Outdoor Hour Challenges

Field Guides I have Used With My Family

Please note the above links are Amazon affiliate links to books I own and love!

Outdoor Hour Challenge Insect Nature Study Challenges Index @handbookofnaturestudy
NOTE: If the challenge is included an ebook, it is noted directly after the challenge. If you have an Ultimate Membership, you will be able to pull up the ebook and print any notebook pages, coloring pages, or other printables for your nature study.

Handbook of Nature Study Ultimate Naturalist Library

Ants – Spring ebook



Black Swallowtail – Spring Nature Study Continues


Caddisfly and Caddis worm – Summer Nature Study Continues

Cockroach – Autumn 2015

Crickets – Summer ebook and another cricket study

Dragonflies and Damselflies

Fireflies – Summer ebook

Gall Dwellers – More Nature Study Winter

Grasshoppers – Summer ebook


Insect Printables

Insect Study with Bug’s Eye View Printable

Katydids – Summer ebook

Lacewing – Summer Nature Study Continues coming soon


Leaf Miners and Leaf Rollers – More Nature Study Autumn

Monarch Butterfly – More Nature Study Summer

Moths – Summer ebook and another moth study

Mosquitoes – Summer ebook

Mud Daubers – More Nature Study Summer

Winter Insects – Winter Wednesday ebook

Yellow Jackets – More Nature Study Summer

Newsletters With a Insect Theme (If you have a membership, you have access to all archived newsletters.)
  • September 2012 – Insect study grid. Ant study. Lesson plans for insect and spider study.
  • April 2014 – Making a bug hotel.
  • June 2016 – Insect Wing Study notebook page. Insect nature study and nature journal ideas.
  • September 2016 – Insect home study ideas. Gall dweller nature study. Insect study grid. Insect coloring page.

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Our Moth Study: Summer 2010

Summer Series 2010 Outdoor Hour Challenge for Fireflies and Moths

Since we do not have fireflies in our part of the world, this will be the second time we have studied moths using the Outdoor Hour Challenges. During the summer of 2008 we completed a moth study while on our camping trip. Moths seem to be one of those creatures that we don’t pay too much attention to as we go about our regular business.

The Discover Nature At Sundown book gave us some really good ways to tell moths and butterflies apart, along with wonderful illustrations of the parts of a moth. We are going to continue our study of moths as we have subjects come our way.

Here are a few moths we have seen in the past.

moth 2
Forget me not moth

Moth we saw on a trip to Oregon that I would love to know the name of if anyone out there has it. Hint, hint.

We have been watching for moths in our garden in the evenings but the best place to observe them is actually in the house. I many times come into the kitchen in the morning and find a few moths clinging to the bottom of the nightlight. I scoop them up and take them back outside.

We did find some signs of spiders in the garden during the day this week. There has been a return of the webs on our crepe myrtle. I was able to capture a few in photos and even one photo of the spider that I think must be making the webs. Any ideas would be appreciated.

Web on Crepe Myrtle (3)

Web on Crepe Myrtle (2)

Web on Crepe Myrtle (5)
See the spider inside the web? These are fantastic webs to look at and they are complex as well as beautiful.

So much for a firefly and moth study….we never feel defeated though. Our advance preparation seems to always pay off in one way or another. I am confident that we will someday be in a position to study fireflies up close and personal.


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Yosemite Amazes Me

We had a great camping/hiking trip to Yosemite National Park…it was a little bit hot in the valley so we tried to stay cool by hiking up in the high country, swimming in the river, and generally keeping to early morning hikes and activities.

Here are a bunch of photos in random sort of order just because I don’t feel like moving them around now that I uploaded them to Blogger. (Some might call that lazy…)

The meadows were filled with wildflowers and it was a feast for the eyes as you hiked along. This lovely bunch of flowers was at McGurk Meadow. This place is along Glacier Point Road and is about a three mile round trip hike from the road. The insects are thick but if you keep moving they pretty much leave you alone. The Indian Paintbrush was the predominant flower on this day.

The California Coneflowers were in full bloom at Crane Flat and this one was as big as my hand. It almost looks like a flat sunflower it was so big.

One of the many nature journal entries that we worked on back at camp. The Locoweed was thick at Crane Flat and it was fun to sketch and paint.

How about this wildflower? Elephant’s Head was blooming alongside Lukens Lake.

Here is Lukens Lake on a summer morning. The hike from Tioga Pass Road to the lake is about 1.5 miles and it is worth the effort. It has a beautiful meadow that you could hike across until last year when they closed it for restoration. You now walk alongside the lake the whole way and can only see the meadow from a distance.

Nothing like a swimming hole in the high country on a hot summer day. We were hiking along the John Muir Trail when we stopped to listen to the water falling down the rocks into the pool. Some fellow hikers tried to convince us to jump in but I knew the water was ice cold. We did end up taking our boots and socks off and sitting with our feet dangling in. It is amazing how fast your feet go numb in the icy waters. This is the Tuolumne River just outside Tuolumne Meadows hiking towards Rafferty Creek.

Here is another high country lake with crystal blue waters. We ate lunch one hot afternoon here and there really were quite a number of other folks around…some kayaking, some swimming, some wading in and cooling off, and some like us just enjoying the view.

This is actually just behind our campsite at Crane Flat. The meadow is in full bloom right now and it is tempting to walk out there and take photos. I did obey the sign and we stayed off the meadow. We did see a bear coming out of the meadow a short way from here but it was busy trotting off somewhere and didn’t even notice us.

Now this flower I knew! Mariposa Lily and there were quite a few growing in a bunch alongside the trail at McGurk Meadow. It is just so perfect. Sigh.

Here is another photo of the meadow as we hiked along. The meadow was damp and it made it sort of steamy in the sun. Hiking in the shade wasn’t so bad but out in the bright sunshine we got a bit hot….okay, we got sweaty. It was a good thing we had packed lots of water and Gatorade to drink.

These blue butterflies were landing on the damp ground. I learned from Casey’s blog that they call this puddling. They were definitely landing in the moist earth of the meadow and staying there awhile. It made a great chance for me to snap a few photos.

The star wildflower on this trip was the Indian Paintbrush. We all agreed it was our favorite flower in the meadow.

This trip was a boys trip and my dear husband decided to teach the boys to whittle. He had purchased each of them their own knives and presented them to each one once we set up camp. It must be a guy thing. 🙂

Here is dad giving them a lesson on safety and how to use the knife to whittle. They whittled the afternoon away and I finished reading two good books.

It was a great July vacation and we already have plans to go back next year. The boys have plans to hike to the top of Half Dome. I told them that they could go and I would stay behind and have dinner ready when they got down. 🙂

I am not really all that great with heights and since they are both teens now, they are eager to test their strength on a long, strenuous hike. Their dad is undecided about whether he wants to try it or not….we have some time to think about it.

Hope you enjoyed some scenes from our trip….grab the chance to go to Yosemite if you ever come this way.
I recently added a Squidoo Lens on Yosemite books: Yosemite for Families

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Winter Wednesday-Our Winter Insect Study

We have had our eye out for insects the past few weeks.

Yesterday we actually saw two very small butterflies as we took our afternoon walk. We are going to try to take our butterfly net today and see if we can catch one to identify.

Added after today’s walk: We actually caught one of what we thought were butterflies and now I think they are moths.

Here is the best photo I could get inside the net. They are orange on the backsides of the wings. This is the first time that I have tried to actually catch a butterfly with a net and I am really glad that my son did not have a video camera. It was hilarious….I sort of felt like a tennis player, swatting at the air. Let’s just say that I got a lot of exercise. 🙂

We saw this on a bunch of leaves and we brought one home to investigate. We decided it is some sort of leaf miner that has been at work.

We found a whole section (pages 329-332) in the Handbook of Nature Study on leaf-miners!

“To most children, it seems quite incredible that there is anything between the upper and lower surfaces of a leaf, and this lesson should hinge on the fact that in every leaf, however thin, there are rows of cells containing the living substance of the leaf, with a wall above and a wall below to protect them…….The serpent-like markings and the blister-like blotches which we often see on leaves are made by the larvae of insects which complete their growth by feeding upon the inner living substance of the leaf.”
Handbook of Nature Study, pages 329 and 331

Here are a few more photos from our walk today.

So these little fungi caught our eye today on this piece of bark. They looked like little mini hamburger buns.

The manzanita is starting to bloom and the shape of the blossoms are so pretty and delicate.

I feel like we are finally starting to catch up on our Winter Wednesdays and our Outdoor Hour Challenges. We have been so busy and the weather so wet that it really distracted us from our time outdoors. It feels good to be back in the routine again.

Learn more about leaf miners in this challenge: 
 Leaf Miners and Leaf Rollers.

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Hummingbird Moth or White-Lined Sphinx Moth

Another gift this morning….a hummingbird moth or a white-lined sphinx moth.

I heard this guy in the skylight of the kitchen last night but I couldn’t get him to come down so I could see what sort of moth he was. This morning as I was sipping my morning cup of coffee, he buzzed right over to collect some nectar from the vase of flowers on my kitchen table. Can you believe that? We all watched as he hovered around the flowers and then up over the table. This was our first experience with a hummingbird moth and it was fantastic.

He flew up to the ceiling and landed in the corner. Please excuse the really ugly background for this beautiful moth. We re in the middle remodeling our living room and he landed right in the dusty corner where we are sheetrocking….of course.

I pulled out my Handbook of Nature Study and I was surprised to find that there is a complete section on hummingbird and sphinx moths, pages 320-325.

“The have long, rather narrow, strong wings which enable them to fly with extraordinary rapidity. …Their colors show most harmonious combinations and most exquisite contrasts; the pattern, although often complex, shows perfect refinement…..Most of the sphinx moths have remarkably long tongues, which are sometimes twice the length of the body.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 321

This was a very interesting insect to read about and I will be on the look out now for more of them. I read in the Handbook that they especially like petunias, morning glories, and nasturtiums which are all planted in my new garden from the spring!

Another gift….thank you.

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Moths of All Sorts-Outdoor Hour Challenge #23

This week’s challenge was to focus on insects and moths in particular. We were able to see lots of moths close-up this week when we were camping. Once you turn on the lantern and set it on the table, watch out! Moths come a flying!

Here are some of the many moths we observed during the week. We were able to get good photos by turning on two lanterns and using one to attract the moths and one to light the moth for the photo. I did not use the flash on the camera.

I don’t think this one is a moth but some other sort of insect that is attracted to the light.

The next set of photos is from the back porch. I turned on the porch light and a little while later, we had plenty of insects that were sitting on the wall near the light. We were able to get good photos by shining a flashlight on the insect and then turning the flash off on the camera to take each one close-up.

Edit: Roberta says this is an adult cabbage looper. I think it looks right to me. 🙂 Thanks Roberta.

This looks more like a green lacewing than a moth but it was sure attracted to the light.

I have not taken the time to try to identify all these insects. I have a really hard time with that part of insect nature study. I spend hours and hours pouring through the field guides and rarely do I find what I am looking for. Insects are really hard to identify but we will persevere and try to update this entry as we find the names for these critters.

My son is going to help me identify the insects and make his journal entry on one of the moths we identify. He prefers to use a spiral bound sketchbook for his nature journal instead of notebooking pages.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge #23 Moths

This week we will continue our mini-focus on insects with a study of moths. The Handbook of Nature Study has several sections on moths that you can read whether you think you will find those particular kinds in your area or not. I found the information very easy to read and now I can apply the suggestions for observation with just about any kind of moth. We do have Isabella Tiger moths in our area so I will be especially on the lookout for those when we do our observations. We will be going camping soon so it will be a perfect time to watch the moths that come to the lantern.

“Not only are insects numerous when we regard individuals, but the number of species is far greater than that of all other animals taken together. The number of species in a single family is greater in several cases than the number of stars visible in a clear night.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 295

Outdoor Hour Challenge #23 
Focus on Insects-Moths

1. In this challenge we will continue our mini-focus on insects. Turn to the table of contents in the Handbook of Nature Study and skim down the list of moths discussed in the book. Read those sections in the Handbook of Nature Study on moths, pages 310 to 329. I personally don’t know much about moths so I am going to read through all the sections and see what I can learn. Here is some general information.

Wings not attached
Nocturnal (active at night)
Wings flat when resting
Feathered antennae
Fat abdomen
Form a cocoon

Wings hooked together in flight
Diurnal (active in the day)
Wings upright when resting
Straight, plain antennae
Thin Abdomen
Form a chrysalis

2. This challenge will need to be completed in the evenings. Turn on a light outside or take a flashlight outside. Moths are attracted to light so you should have some success if you are patient. Make sure to look on walls and plants near the light for moths.

Try this website for further techniques in attracting moths.
Attracting Moths

If you are unable to complete the challenge this week for moths, please feel free to take your outdoor time at a time that works for you family. Use your time to look for insects and to enjoy the summer air and sunshine.

3. After you have your outdoor time, provide an opportunity for working on a nature journal entry. This might be a good time to discuss the differences between butterflies and moths. If you didn’t see any moths, you can record in your nature journal any other kinds of insects that you found during your outdoor time.

4. If you observe more than one kind of moth this week, make sure to start a list of moths in your nature journal. I like to keep a running list in the back of my nature journal. If you observed some other kinds of insects during the week, record those too.