National Moth Week

moth on the car

Moth on car window

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 logo

National Moth Week

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.

antennae

Moth antennae!

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!

luna moth

Luna moth

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!

tiger moth

Tiger moth

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.

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth
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17 thoughts on “National Moth Week

  1. I love moths. I have spent many happy hours outside at night watching what moths show up to the lights in the yard. Even the “drab” ones are beautiful, often featuring delicate scrollwork along the borders of their wings, and their shapes are endlessly pleasing.

    • I love moths too! I especially love the saturniids, but I agree that they’re often much more exciting than you might think on first glance. Are you celebrating National Moth Week? You should if you love moths!

  2. Great post, you’ve sparked my desire to spend the evening outside.
    Have you read Central Park in the Dark by Marie Winn (she wrote Red Tails In Love). Terrific book which looks at the night life of the Park, including moths.

  3. On Friday night I saw a Luna Moth on the ground when I was walking to my car. I was surprised; I thought they were rare. It moved a little, and I examined it to find ants were eating it. :( Its wings were very tattered, similar to the picture you’ve posted. I’d love to see a Luna Moth in flight!

    • That’s so sad! And I’ve never seen a luna moth in flight either. I am now living in a place where I might, so I hope I’ll get to see one this summer. Hope you can do the same!

    • There are places that sell Luna Moth caterpillars that you can raise and release. We bought one at a support-your-local-zoo sale and he/she was beautiful finally flying away. As long as you live in an area where they already exist, I don’t see anything wrong with the practice.

      • If purchasing luna moth cats, it would be good to know if you have the host plants. This from the University of Florida: Northernmost populations most often utilize white birch, Betula papyrifera, as a host. More southerly populations use a variety of host plants particularly members of the walnut family Juglandaceae (walnuts [Juglans] and hickories, [Carya]); sumacs (Rhus); sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua L.; and persimmon, Diospyros virginiana L. Villard lists hickory as the preferred host, but recommends that rearing be done in sleeves or cages on living plants since most hickories wilt rapidly when cut. This obstacle can be overcome by diligently supplying fresh food. Sweetgum works well for captive rearing.

      • Really? Ooh! That would be so fun! Though I’m still hoping I’ll be able to see one in person at my moth night in a few weeks. The only few I’ve seen have been on their last legs, so they haven’t been as magnificent as they might.

        I still haven’t gotten my Cecropia caterpillars, but hopefully I’ll be getting some next week. Those are going to be so fun to raise!

  4. Pingback: The Weekly Flypaper » Biodiversity in Focus Blog

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