Beaufort News

A moth for mom: A familiar Beaufort name will forever be attached to this unique gift

How do you tell a moth from a butterfly?

Steve Mix, a lepidopterist and former owner of the Butterfly Shop in Beaufort, explains how to tell a moth from a butterfly.
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Steve Mix, a lepidopterist and former owner of the Butterfly Shop in Beaufort, explains how to tell a moth from a butterfly.

A familiar Beaufort name will live on forever after a recent unique gift.

Steve Mix wanted to thank his mother, Lin Mix, for supporting his quirky hobby throughout the years. As a boy growing up in the small town town of Bethune, northeast of Camden, Steve returned home from camp in North Carolina enamored with butterflies.

“They didn’t have to buy me those new butterfly nets when I ripped one up as an 8-year-old,” Steve said of Lin and his father, Joseph. “As the years go by, they buy you better mounts and buy you books and all of a sudden you do a pretty good job at it.”

So like good sons do, Steve named a moth species for his mom. A white moth discovered in the dunes of White Sands National Monument in New Mexico 10 years ago is now known as Givira delindae Metzler.

Lin is short for Delinda. Metzler is for Eric Metzler, a curator at Michigan State University who identified the new species in 2007.

Steve won the naming rights in an online eBay auction he read about in this newspaper in 2015. His $1,600 bid benefited the Western National Parks Association, a nonprofit arm of the U.S. National Park Service.

He presented the plaque and with information and a photo of the moth to Lin on Mother’s Day. Lin and her husband, Joseph, bought their Bay Street home about 40 years ago after retiring from Massachusetts.

Steve owned the Butterfly Shop on Bay Street for 17 years, closing the business in 2011. Joseph owned Island Outfitters, an outdoors store on Lady’s Island.

“It smelled like cigars and beer and bait in there,” Steve said.

Before moving from Beaufort to Massachusetts, Steve remembers his dad driving him early one morning from the Lowcountry to rest areas off Interstate 26 near Jalapa. In the darkness, those rest areas held giant luna moths.

When you’re a parent, you live through your children, Steve said. And that meant vacation spots with productive butterfly and moth collecting.

After moving to Massachusetts, the family returned to South Carolina to vacation at Litchfield near Pawleys Island and Cherry Grove in North Myrtle Beach. The butterflies and moths were plentiful and they made sure to stop in Jalapa.

“It was a wonderful time, Lin said.

For a while, the collected specimens went into a jar to be killed and displayed. Collecting became a family activity including Steve’s cousin, and the butterflies would be spread on paper and a coin flipped to choose who would select first.

Steve has swapped collecting for snapping photos.

“He still does a lot with it,” his wife, Vicki, said. “He talks at schools and garden clubs.”

The new species will be formally introduced at a conference in Phoenix, Ariz., later this year.

The moth is defined by a white, satiny body with a gray streak on its back and gray wing markings.

Moths are placed into two groups by their size.

Microlepidoptera — or smaller mothers — have a wingspan of 1/4 inch or smaller, making them difficult to identify by markings. Macrolepidoptera are larger.

The one named for Lin has a wingspan of about an inch.

“The larger ones, they are a little more showy,” Steve said. “That’s what attracted me to bidding on it.

This just seems like something perfect for my mom, because she did so much for me.”

Stephen Fastenau: 843-706-8182, @IPBG_Stephen