It’s National Moth Week! Woo! I’ve been up late every night this week watching moths and have been averaging about 5 hours of sleep nightly, so I’m a wee bit tired this late in the week. It’s been quite the adventure too! I started the week with my big, public moth viewing event for the museum where I work. It didn’t rain this year for the first time, and we had over 100 people come out to the field station to watch moths. A good half of them stayed past 10PM, none of which has happened before. I did, however, inhale and swallow the very first moth that came to the sheet that night. That was a little rough going down… I also got some stinging insect stuck between my neck and my camera strap, and I’ve still got a good-sized welt on my neck from that encounter. I came home with a tick happily sucking blood out of my armpit. I’ve had bugs fly into my eyes and my ears and my mouth. More moths than I can count have ended up down my shirt, which I don’t even understand given that I have about 4 square inches of skin exposed and look like I’m about to mount an Everest expedition in an attempt to avoid mosquito bites. I’ve been wearing a SCARF for goodness sake! I’m not sure why I even bother – I’ve gotten a good dozen mosquito bites anyway, THROUGH my long pants and my heavy wool socks. (Seriously?!) I’ve had all manner of problems with my light rigs too. My first night at home, I set up my reliable little DC voltage blacklight bulb with my portable jump starter and things went well. The next night, the jump starter died and I can’t get it working again. I put a CFL blacklight bulb into my porch light in my backyard the next night, and the light fixture died. Last night it rained so hard that it pulled my whole sheet rig down so I was out in my yard at 1AM trying to get it repositioned so it could actually dry out in time for tonight. Tonight I’ve got a CFL bulb in a cheapo clip light clipped to a shepherd’s crook and a huge extension cord running into my house because the electrical outlet under the light fixture is ALSO out.
I’m not sure what else can go wrong at this point, but I’m still having a great time! I go out with my camera several times every night, happily looking for the things coming to my sheets. I have found dozens of species at my lights each night, though I’m still hoping a few of the big moths will show up. I have a cruddy yard for insects, but there’s a big patch of forest about 100 feet away on the other side of the street. Surely I’ll get at least one big moth, right?
These are my favorites moths and moments so far from National Moth Week 2014:
Day 1: Moths at Night Event at Prairie Ridge Ecostation
Beautiful wood nymph
We were just getting packed up after our public moth viewing evening at work when I spotted this moth sitting on the ledge that runs along the inside of our outdoor classroom building. A beautiful wood nymph! It’s a gorgeous name for a pretty moth, though there’s no denying the fact that they look just like bird poop…
Day 2: Mothing at Home, Part I
When your yard is all grass, it’s not entirely surprising when you get mostly grass-loving moth species coming to your lights. The elegant grass-veneer is about the only small moth I can actually recognize, but it’s quite lovely if you take a close look at it. It’s all shimmery and has gold flecks and fringes and fluffy bits sticking off the front. Not bad for something that crawls out of my grass to come to my lights!
Day 3: Mothing at Home, Part II
The moth-related highlight of day 3 was getting a photo from a dad who came to the moth night at Prairie Ridge. He had brought his kid with him and they stayed for most of the 4 hours we were open for moth viewing. He and his kid went out the very next morning and bought their own blacklights and had set them up in their backyard immediately. They got a great photo of a tulip tree silk moth (oh how I wish I was getting anything that big!) and asked if I knew what it was because they were going to send their photos off to a citizen science project. There is absolutely nothing more gratifying than knowing that at least two people took what you taught them and put it to use after you parted ways! The dad has since told me that his kid gets up early and goes to check the lights every morning now. That’s just awesome! I also saw the absolutely gorgeous moth in the photo at my light on my second night mothing at home. I have no idea what it is and I didn’t get it perfectly framed, but it’s quite beautiful!
Day 4: Mothing at Home, Part III
Day 4 was when my porch light went out. I was happy to get anything, and this was easily the most impressive moth of the night. That’s a Hebrew, a very lovely member of the dagger moth group. The host plant for this species is black gum, so I have no idea where this moth came from (the forest across the street is mostly pine), but I was happy it showed up.
Day 5: Mothing at Home, Part IV
Ailanthus webworm moth
Most of the moths I’ve seen this week have been what I call LBM’s, or little brown moths. Then these show up every night around 11PM and are easily among the top three most colorful moths I see each night. Ailanthus webworm moths get their name from an invasive species (tree of heaven) that they feed on, though they are native to the US and switched to their namesake host after it was introduced into the US.
I’ve got three more nights of mothing left before National Moth Week comes to a close. I keep going back out to look because I really want to see just one big moth. Speaking of which, it’s time to get back out there again tonight…
Any of you been out looking for moths this week? Any great finds? I would love to live vicariously through you if you’ll share your moth stories from National Moth Week 2014 below!
Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth