How a Chance Encounter With a Moth Turned Into an Amazing Discovery

Paulus' geometer, observed in 2022 in Ness Ziona, Israel. Credit: Shlomi Levi

On a sunny Saturday morning in October 2022, Shlomi Levi and his family were going for a hike. As they were leaving their apartment building in Ness Ziona, south of Tel Aviv, Shlomi noticed a moth near the building entrance light, not far from the garbage cans. He snapped two photos on his cell phone. When they returned, the moth was gone. But Shlomi had the photos.

Shlomi is a farm animal veterinarian, an avid birder and photographer. In the last couple of years, he has also become interested in moths.


That evening, he tried to identify the moth in the photos. He knew it was a geometer but also knew he’d never seen this species before. On the Israel nature site run by Oz Ritner, National Moth Week’s country coordinator for Israel, Shlomi found what he was looking for: The moth was a Paulus’ geometer – Selidosema combustaria.

Paulus’ geometer was first collected by an insect dealer named Paulus and described by German entomologist Rudolf Püngeler in 1903. This specimen of a male is housed in a museum in Germany. The collection site is described as “near the Jordan River,” but since he was a rare insect dealer, it is likely that the location is not correct because he would not have wanted others to know where to find this rare species. The one Shlomi found was a dark morph of the species, compared to the ones found previously.

This enigmatic species was not seen again until 2014 when a few individuals showed up at Oz’s light trap in the Lahav area of Israel. Three individuals were sent to be housed in the German museum after a DNA sample for taken. Another is in an Israeli collection.

This moth was not seen again until Shlomi found it in 2022.

“This is why citizen science is so important,” said National Moth Week co-founder Liti Haramaty. “When people of all backgrounds, not just scientists, document moths in their local habitats, they can turn up amazing discoveries, like Shlomi did. It can happen to anybody.”

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