The US has all sorts of bizarre “holidays” that celebrate some really random things, such as Talk Like a Pirate Day, If Pets Had Thumbs Day (seriously – that’s a real holiday!), and Nude Recreation Week. Many of these holidays are silly and very few people either know about or participate in them, but some have more educational or cultural significance. There’s a new holiday this year that fits into the latter category, and it’s one I’m very excited about: National Moth Week is July 23-29, 2012! A whole week devoted to moth appreciation, moth observation, and general mothy goodness. I can’t wait!
National Moth Week celebrates the lesser loved Lepidoptera, the moths. In case you don’t know, moths are an incredibly diverse group of organisms with over 10000 species in the United States alone. There are a lot of drab brown moths, but there are some absolutely spectacular, colorful moths too. (My favorite colorful moth is Citheronia splendens, the splendid royal moth. Beautiful!) Moths range in size from the “microleps,” the tiny moths that most people barely acknowledge, to the giant silkworm moths with wingspans of over 10 inches in some species. Moths also have some fascinating behaviors. I always loved the mass emergence of the miller moths when I lived in Colorado, but that’s not even a particularly unusual moth behavior. Some moths avoid predation by bats by dropping out of the sky when they hear a bat coming, and don’t even get me started on caterpillar behavior! There are some pretty wild caterpillars, things that look scary and are perfectly harmless (e.g. hickory horned devils) while some of the most adorably fuzzy caterpillars are full of painful stinging hairs (e.g. puss moths). In essence: moths are cool. Really cool.
The goal of National Moth Week is to get people outside observing moths so that they start to appreciate some of that coolness and diversity. The team behind the event is encouraging people to participate in a moth related event during that week or start their own. Events can be either public or private and there is a wide range of things people are doing. Some people are simply going to stare at their porch light one night and see what shows up. Other people are hosting big, public events aimed at education and moth celebration. Some hardcore moth people will set up traps and lights every night to do a comprehensive survey. There are even competitions recognizing the best moth-ers for various achievements, such as recording the most moth species during Moth Week. Ultimately, anything goes for Moth Week – so long as you get out there and appreciate those moths!
As you all know, I recently started a new job and part of my responsibility is to develop programs at Prairie Ridge Ecostation where I work. So, I’m having a public moth event for National Moth Week! Moths All Night will be held July 28 from 8PM until 4AM July 29 at Prairie Ridge. It should be fun! I’m giving a very short introduction to the major moths groups that people are likely to see and then I’m turning everyone loose on the grounds to observe and document the local moths. I adore blacklighting, so there will be a few blacklighting stations set up for moth viewing. With the help of local moth experts, we’ll be setting out baits and traps to sample the local species, improve the Prairie Ridge species list, and start to develop a reference collection for use in future programs. I’m also encouraging everyone to bring cameras to photograph the moths we see so we can submit our sightings to a couple of National Moth Week partner citizen science organizations. That way we’re doing something useful while celebrating moths. By the end of the night, I hope participants walk away having learned about moths, observed the diversity of the local species, talked to a moth expert, and contributed valuable moth data to scientists. That would be a night very well spent in my opinion!
If you happen to be in the Raleigh area, please join us! You can find more information about the program, such as how to find Prairie Ridge and how to let me know you’re coming, on the Museum website. I’d love to see you there. Or set up your own moth event! Plan to spend 10 minutes starting at your porch light one day that week? Register it at the National Moth Week website to make it official! Then be sure to enter the drawing for a signed copy of one of several fabulous moth guides. Wouldn’t it be great to win a book for doing something as simple as spending part of a night appreciating nature?
National Moth Week. Hope you’ll all join in! I think you’ll be glad you did.