What is an NMW Event? Why is it Important? By Dr. Roger Kendrick

Well, for the “What”, as Ian Morton wrote in 2016 “Anything Goes

So why register your moth “event” for National Moth Week. What is the significance?

In short – every single observation counts, by contributing to the “bigger picture”.


Citizen science is not new – collection of moth data and bird data from observers in the United Kingdom has taken place for several hundred years. The internet has revolutionized the process, though, through citizen science portals / apps that make it easier than it has ever been to photograph an observation and submit it, along with the location and time-stamp, to a portal for collating biological data. These collated data are then checked for accuracy, usually by researchers, or by dedicated volunteers, and once verified, can become part of a project run by researchers looking at (e.g.) changes in species distribution over time, changes in species phenology (e.g. when they occur and in what life stage they occur, or when they flower, or something like when the first cuckoo call of spring happens each year). Only by aggregating data from many sources can projects tackle big (regional, national, international or global) issues, such as how species are responding to changes in the landscape globally.

Let me give you one example that I have been involved with. I run a number of recording projects on iNaturalist, one of which is for moths that are found in Hong Kong. Data is provided by many people, some of whom contribute thousands of observations, some contribute just a few observations. All together, the distribution and coverage is far better than I could ever achieve on my own, and gives me a much better idea about _which_ species should receive greater attention for conservation action. I teamed up with academics from The University of Hong Kong to look at other questions, one of which was “is climate change impacting moths in Hong Kong”, to which the answer is “probably” – with different species responding in different, sometimes unexpected ways. Some species were shifting their distribution uphill, a few the other way, some not shifting significantly at all and some shifting their distribution northwards, i.e. tropical species arriving in subtropical Hong Kong in the last few decades, just as is happening with many species shifting distributions elsewhere in the world.

Are “common” species important ?

Absolutely. Have you ever heard of the Passenger Pigeon? – it was North America’s commonest bird species in the 1890s, yet by 1930 it was extinct (gone for ever). We do not know exactly what the future holds for any species on Earth, including us, Homo sapiens. But we cannot assume that just because a species is common it is not vulnerable to extinction.

So records of common moth species, the ones that are familiar to the moth recorders and researchers, are _really_ important, just as records of currently rare moth species are important. Thus everyone’s contribution to National Moth Week, whether just one or two moths from a backyard light or chanced upon in the garden, or of hundreds of moths seen in an all night mothing session, all go to building a bigger picture of how moths are distributed (spatially and in abundance) now – and can be compared in years to come. Every observation counts.

If you thought it’s not important to register with NMW, please reconsider. Your data is meaningful. If you haven’t used a citizen science portal before, there’s a first time for everyone. Yes, it can seem scary and overwhelming, but these apps have real people, amateur naturalists, professional biologists, academics, kids, using them, supporting newcomers and “old pros” alike! You will be made welcome, and there are people in the iNaturalist community who will help if you need help. A good place to start is the “getting started” page.

Now go and register – get outside and mothing (by day or night) in your backyard and enjoy your contribution and participation into and with the global community. Please.

Dr. Roger C. KENDRICK lives and works in Hong Kong. He is a Natioanl Moth Week team member.

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Update and Information for NMW on iNaturalist!

On iNaturalist, National Moth Week 2020 is off to a great start! We are just a little over 3 days in and we have already observed over 30,000 moths totaling over 3,000 species. Any moths you upload during NMW will be included in the project automatically!

Panel of moths from the National Moth Week 2020 project on iNaturalist.

We are trying a new way of organizing our projects this year that enables better downloading of data from each year of National Moth Week! With this new format, we have a single global project rather than one for each location under an umbrella project. This way, we plan to have an umbrella project including each year of National Moth Week.

We understand that you may want to have totals and summaries for your own location, however, and we encourage you to create a project for your region! There are already projects for all provinces in Canada, Washington State, and Colombia, among others! Be sure to also check out NMW member Roger Kendrick’s project, Moths of Asia, that is not just for NMW, but has an amazing selection of moths. Just download the NMW logo below and create your own event using the template “National Moth Week _insert location here_ 2020”.

Don’t forget to register a private event if you are uploading to iNaturalist – even if you are just looking at moths near lights outside!

National Moth Week Logo, Io Moth on right side of image with text "National Moth Week Global Citizen Science" on the left.
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Mothing is the New Birding, guest post by Lisa Ann Fanning

The first Moth Night I attended was back in 2012. I was an avid birder for an entire 2 years at that point, but once you get the nature spark, it pulls you in.  Birding is exciting, and as a “lister,” I have a natural passion to see “new” creatures …. “Lifers” as we call it in birding.

Birding starts to slow after the May migration wanes, and doesn’t pick up again until August with shorebird migration. Sooooo… what to do during that “downtime” in June and July… that’s where the moths come in!

I admit it, I came in to this not knowing what to expect. I saw there was a National Moth Week kickoff event that we saw advertised, and decided to check it out.  What did I know about moths? Well, they flit around lights, they eat holes in your sweaters and are boring, right? WRONG!

We have a term in Birding called “Spark Bird” – that’s the bird that hooks you in and gets you excited (and in some cases, obsessed) about birds.  Well, I had a “Spark Moth” that intrigued me back in 2009 – the Royal Walnut Moth (or Regal Moth) … I found it barely flitting around in my front yard. This thing was enormous and gorgeous.  I decided I needed to get it to rehab because “it didn’t look like it was healthy.” Little did I know, they live to reproduce and that’s it.   I actually went so far as to contact a professor in New York State to figure out how to get it help..I soon was educated in Silk Moth life-cycles and started to get the “bug” to learn more about moths.

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A ‘not so healthy’ Regal Moth

When my (then boyfriend, now) husband and I first attended National Moth Week events in NJ, we could not get enough! We went from event to event, “lifing” new moths one more beautiful than the last.  It even got to the point where each year, we put the week on our calendars well in advance to make sure we didn’t commit ourselves to other events, because, we had moths to see!

These creatures truly are amazing. They’re not like the sparrows of the insect world (what we call LBJ’s (Little Brown Jobs))  They are colorful, beautiful and interesting in their own right.

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An IO moth clings to my husband Rob’s shirt during a 2013 Moth Night … we had just gotten married, and this moment felt so magical.

One thing that amuses non-birders about us crazy birders is that we often “chase” rare birds.. that is, we will often share information about the location of a rare or unusual bird withing the community and others will come and look for it. If you miss it, it is called “dipping.”   Well, for me, mothing is no different.  A friend of mine worked at a car dealership in Keyport, NJ and had posted that a Luna Moth (for some, a “holy grail” moth) was hanging out on the side wall of the dealership.  Of course, I was at work in Jersey City, and had to get home, get my car and make my way to Keyport…. yes, I dipped!  But alas, much like birding, other opportunities arise.   The next year, my husband and I vacationed in New Hampshire and had a “flyby” …. in the birding world, this is called a “BVD” (Better Views Desired) … and then, a month later, a friend got word out that he had a Luna Moth just hanging out on his garage door, and welcomed us to his home for what we call in the birding world “upgrade.”   Yessssss!!!

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A sweet Luna Moth gives amazing views while hanging out on a friend’s garage door.  We had to work to “tick” this one.

Much like birding, people have their favorite “patches,” that is, a favorite spot to go and observe.   For some reason, I always had luck at our local Park and Ride. By the time I would leave for work, these beautiful creatures would “roost” on the side of the building. It actually started to make me look forward to my commute (if that’s possible.)

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A Blinded Sphinx Moth at the local Park and Ride (US Quarter for scale)
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A Giant Leopard Moth at the same Park and Ride. I wish I knew what it was about this spot that they loved so much.

So here we are in 2020 – Quarantine, Lockdown, Social Distancing…. sigh! The natural world has been the one constant that gets me through the days (and nights.) Whether it is checking out which birds come to our feeder, what beetles are eating our plants in our garden, or watching NEOWISE, the comet move higher into the sky- it helps to go back to the basics sometimes to feel connected.

You can be sure of one thing… I have our lights, our sheet and iNaturalist all ready to go for National Moth Week 2020.  I can’t wait to hear all the reports.

Good Birding (ehhh, Mothing) to you!

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Watch the videos – iNaturewatch Foundation hosting Dr V Shubhalxmi for online mothing events

Zoom Live with Moth Book Author Dr. Geetha Iyer  

How to become a moth citizen scientists by Ms Priti Choghale

Book talk by Authors of Moth Books- Dr Jagbir Singh

Webinar on How to Study Moth Life History by Dr. V Shubhalaxmi

Keynote speech on Indian Moths by Roger Kendrick

Meeting With Women Moth-ers

Facebook live on Moth Mania by Dr V Shubhalaxmi

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Backyard mothing with Carl Barrentine in Spokane, Washington, USA

Carl Barrentine, participants since 2013 and National Moth Week team member, is documenting moth species flying in his backyard. Carl will share his methods and findings in a series of daily videos during National Moth Week 2020.

This short video introduces 100 species of moths–of perhaps 160 species–that I’ve found and photographed in my backyard during National Moth Week 2020. These 100 species represent only 4 of nearly 40 moth families I can expect to find in my backyard over the course of any given year. It’s too early to say for certain, but I think that by the close of this mothing season (December 2020) I will have photographed close to a cumulative 700 species of moths in my backyard over the three years I’ve been looking, 2018-2020. That’s pretty amazing! Happy Moth-watching to you, from Spokane, Washington (26 July 2020). Keep the light on!
This short video illustrates how I employ a portable and light weight 12 volt, 15 watt DC light lure and ‘hamper trap’ contraption that is useful for field applications where there is no access to electricity. Spokane, Washington (25 July 2020).
This short video introduces three internet resources that I reference daily during the mothing season. These resources include Moth Photographers Group, Bug Guide and Pacific Northwest Moths. In this video I employ all three resources to help me identify a moth that I photographed here in my backyard this morning. Spokane, Washington (23 July 2020).
This video introduces my experience as a moth-watcher for seven years in the Upper Midwest and now for three years the Pacific Northwest. This video also introduces various books that have been helpful resources to me as I have struggled–and continue to struggle!–to learn my local moths. Finally, the last part of the video summarizes by three-year effort to find, photograph and identify the moths found right here in my own backyard here in south Spokane, Washington (23 July 2020).
This short video briefly addresses the frustrations of getting good photographs of moths. I share a few insights or techniques that I’ve learned–by trial and error–over my ten year trek into moth macrophotography. Realize that my aim is really about ‘moth portraiture’ rather than ‘moth photography,’ and so information shared here may not be particularly relevant for those who get good images of moths on illuminated sheets at night.
This short video illustrates how to set up a ‘hamper trap’ and/or a ‘bucket trap to lure moths in your backyard. Light sources include the CFL UV black light bulb and/or a disarmed UV bug zapper as light-lures. The importance of well-placed egg trays is also discussed in this video. Spokane, Washington (21 July 2020).
This short video introduces two types of lights that seem to work well as ‘light lures’ for moths: these include mercury vapor (MV) and ultraviolet (UV) options. In addition, I make a strong recommendation for employing easily ‘disarmed’ (and inexpensive) used ‘bug zappers’ as ‘light lures’ for moths. Spokane, Washington (20 July 2020).
In this video we look at the contents of one of the ‘hamper traps’ with an eye to noticing the shapes and sizes of moths. As with identifying birds, shape and size are usually the first two criteria for identifying a moth. Learning the families of moths (by recognizing their characteristic shapes and sizes) helps one to later find the genus and then particular species of a moth. There are 40 families of moths (and 5 families of butterflies) in my backyard over the course of a year here in Spokane, Washington (19 July 2020).
Recommendations for storing live moths and unloading egg trays (with moths) from the ‘hamper trap’, Spokane, Washington (18 July 2020).
An introduction to ‘Porch Light Biology’ that includes a brief look at two different designs for backyard ‘Hamper Traps’ employed to lure and catch moths for biological studies. Spokane, Washington (17 July 2020).
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Staten Island Museum – Moth Night Discovery Kit 2020

Staten Island Museum Offers a Moth Night Discovery Kit

for Safe Mothing During the Pandemic

What’s your favorite holiday? Halloween? New Year’s? At the Staten Island Museum in New York, we’re usually counting down to Moth Night! The Museum’s insect collection is our largest with moths being a big part of the 500,000 plus specimens. The historic collection spans from the late 1800s through the early 1940s. While we haven’t been celebrating Moth Night for quite that long, this is our 7th year of exploring nocturnal science and marking this special time of year.

Just as varied as the insect collection itself, Moth Nights of the past have included contemporary dance, a public art installation, hikes through some of the greenest parts of Staten Island, art activities, star gazing, shadow dancing, dueling attractors, and more. The collection of the Staten Island Museum matched with the natural spaces of this unique borough have always been at the heart of the celebration.

With the museum building temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic this season, we used our imaginations to design an experience that imparts all of the magic, inspiration, and information needed for families to participate in this inspiring event – at home. We developed the Moth Night Discovery Kit, an interactive packet of videos and activities assembled to equip families with the know-how to explore the nocturnal natural world and the moths that call it home. 

Warm summer nights are perfect for bringing the whole family together to explore the scientific world that comes alive when the sun goes down. We are happy to present this program in collaboration with the Staten Island Children’s Museum for the third year and excited to work with Protectors of Pine Oak Woods on Staten Island. Going virtual enabled us to expand upon this normally site-specific program and connect with scientists throughout the country like Danielle Belleny and Ashley Gary. It also broadened our reach allowing families from California, Illinois, Oregon, Indiana, North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Arizona, and beyond to register for their Moth Night Discovery Kit and join in the excitement.

This summer, celebrate the wonder of moths and use your senses to discover the natural world by moonlight. This downloadable kit of night science activities will guide you through making a light attractor, deciphering owl calls and other night sounds, taking a (virtual) tour of the Museum’s moth collection, and more! With over 20 pages of videos and activities, the Moth Night Discovery Kit provides a bevy of information to inspire study and explore throughout the summer.

This summer, every night can be a Moth Night.

Rylee Eterginoso

Public Programs Manager

Staten Island Museum


Event Link: http://statenislandmuseum.org/athome/event/moth-night/

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Upload your moth observation to iNaturalist

Contributing to National Moth Week with iNaturalist is simple:

Download the free iNaturalist app, photograph and make a separate observation for each moth, check that the location and date are correct, and identify each as precisely as you can. It’s ok if you can just get to family.

All moths observed between July 18 – 26 will be automatically included!

Be sure to join the National Moth Week 2020 project as well: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/national-moth-week-2020

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How to get the Project Noah National Moth Week 2020 Patch

The 2020 Project Noah Moth Week Patch is ready! Post a moth photo into Moths of the World Mission between July 1 and August 15 and you will receive the special patch. Attaching a picture of the 2020 Moth Week Patch.

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Backyard mothing sharing on Twitter & Instagram – Guest post by Tanya Dapkey

Every year since 2016, I have gone to Hildacy Farm Preserve in Media, PA to set up a Moth Night. Natural Lands Hildacy Preserve encompasses 55 acres and is managed by a former graduate classmate of mine, Mike Coll. Mike has spent years working towards eliminating invasive plant species and fostering native ones. When I realized I could do a Moth Night, he was one of the first people I contacted, his preserve would be perfect for a set up, and he knew a lot of people who would love to participate. He agreed and every July since then we have gotten together to celebrate National Moth Week. We made a few Moth Nights public, but the private events where we just invite fellow moth-ers and friends has been the most fun. Everyone brings their kids and we camp out and enjoy each other’s company, geeking out when a particularly cool moth lands on the sheet. Last year, 2019, we had the best Moth Night, with a Luna Moth as our final moth of the evening.

When National Moth Week announced sign-ups for this year, I was once again filled with excitement. Mike and I had plans to set up multiple nights and multiple locations. Normally we set up near the barn (source of electricity), but this year we wanted to try and go out into the meadows. It would require many more extension cords and maybe a car battery, but we wanted to see how the meadow population compared to what shows up near the barn.

Then the SARS-CoV-2 virus hit the United States and with it a poor response to the pandemic. Mike and I both have children and families, the risk of holding an event would be too high for us. We decided to nix it this year, and while it makes my heart heavy, I know it’s the right choice.

But Moth Night must go on! This year I am going to set up my lights in my own backyard and live tweet and Instagram what I see. Most events I have participated in this year have been virtual, so why not make a virtual Moth Night?! And I haven’t taken an inventory of my back yard for a few years. I recently installed a meadow in my own backyard, and I am curious to see if it has made an impact on the biodiversity in my little .33 acres. Anecdotally I can say that this year I am seeing more lightning bugs, but what has the impact been for moths?

I use a pretty simple setup: one old white sheet from my college days, one black light (also from my college days), one photo backdrop support system to hang the sheet,  one mercury vapor light, and a rain shield for the light in case of rain. I use my grandfather’s old tripod for stabilizing the mercury vapor light. He was a photographer when he first immigrated to this country and the tripod was one of the items he brought with him from Germany.  The photo backdrop needs to be anchored or it will topple over, we usually rig something together using bungee cords and weights. We have also used tent stakes and rope to successfully keep it upright. For identifications, I use the Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America, and the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America for the other insect guests that stop by.

Please join me on July 19th, 2020 via Twitter and Instagram to see what I find in my backyard. Will the Regal Moth return this year? Will I see any Sphingids? How many Noctuids and Geometrids will there be? I can’t wait to find out!

Tanya Dapkey is an entomologist working in the Patrick Center for Environmental Research in the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia where she studies stream macroinvertebrates to determine water quality. She has an Masters in Environmental Studies from the University of Pennsylvania and worked with Dr. Daniel Janzen for almost 15 years on the Lepidoptera of the ACG project. Learn more about her at https://www.tanyadapkey.com/ and follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @TanyaDapkey

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Meet Sajan KC of Nepal, National Moth Week’s Newest Country Coordinator

I am Sajan KC from Nepal. I will be 26 this July and I love Lepidoptera. A butterfly or a moth, what difference does it make?

I first came across mothing in 2017. It was a time when I used to be studying all insects around me in general, so I wasn’t quite only into mothing, and would snap shots of whatever 6-legged creature I came across.

Attacus atlas and Actias luna. Yes, these two species are the ones that grew my love toward moths.  Before, I used to find moths rather dull and mundane. No hard feelings there. And I had a rather rigid preference toward studying butterflies. The day I stumbled across these two moth species online, I began rooting for them right away. Although not before long, I found out that Actias luna is an exclusive New World species, but I could nevertheless find two of its many cousins here in my region: Actias selene and Actias maenas.

I have seen Attacus atlas, in Kathmandu last year, but the Actias has always eluded me so far. A friend of mine and his better-half, with whom I was mothing last year, told me they saw one on the porch outside when I was guarding the light set-up not far away. Unfortunately, it was gone by the time I reached there. No, they weren’t fooling around me.

Well, I mostly go hunting (photographing) for butterflies during the day. I have a dandy digital collection of them on my laptop. But I certainly welcome moths which visit my porch light at night, or the day flying ones which settle on flowers giving me a break from the butterflies every now and then – especially those Nyctemera adversata. They seem to be everywhere from February to December. One could easily confuse them with Pierid butterflies.

Today, I have long stopped caring about the color/beauty of a lepidoptera. Every species has its unique, intrinsic value and beauty. No matter an otherwise puny looking moth, like Spoladea recurvalis or a gaudy big one, like Iotaphora iridicolor. It doesn’t matter to me anymore. A moth is a moth.

I came across National Moth Week on Facebook. And when I knew about it, I gave no second thought and registered for a tentative event right away. One thing led to another, and I ended up hosting a full-fledged hiking event in 2018 on the occasion, sponsored by “Together We Can,” an NGO I was working with. It was held in Shivapuri Nagarjuna National Park in Kathmandu on 29th of July that year. On my birthday!  Well, what better way to celebrate a birthday? I had on a blue National Moth t-shirt, a wide smile on my face, sharing my knowledge among the participants who had on a round paper badge with the National Moth logo on it on their chests. We had 22 participants in total, all equally enthused to learn about moths. Stuff like how to tell them from butterflies and the other nitty-gritties. The program was a success, at heart. Some of them are still following up today.

Then last year in 2019, the entire July, I did a private mothing event with a light set-up in my village Raipur, Tanahun and hometown Pokhara, Kaski. Along with the aforementioned couple foreigner friends. They had a whole different level of experience than I. The set-up I used was theirs in fact, and they were munificent enough to leave it for me before they departed. I had made a separate post on it on the NMW blog as well. I had recorded a whopping 300 species during merely a month.

Regarding the IDs, I always keep the e-copies of Toshiro Haruta’s Moths of Nepal volumes (1992-2000) at hand. There are 6 of them. All with nice pictures of spread specimens in their natural sizes. The outdated or the mistaken IDs are corrected by Colin Smith in his Lepidoptera of Nepal (2010). This one was gifted to me by Marcus Cotton of Tiger Mountain, Pokhara when I was there last year with Colin Smith himself and Surendra Pariyar.

This is my third year in NMW. And we’re in the third month of lockdown here in Nepal. Things are as strange as they could be. It’s difficult to organize a gathering in such precarious times, but that’s not mandatory for mothing, is it? Cast a light in the dark of the night, and a moth is bound to crash onto you.

When I was offered the chance to be the country coordinator for NMW in Nepal this year, I couldn’t be happier. Mothing wasn’t done quite extensively in Nepal until Toshiro Haruta in 1990. Then I suppose there was a huge lag in the middle with only a scarce number of species being added to his list.

Certainly, Nepal needs more researchers. In recent times though, I sense more and more students willing to learn about insects, including moths. Most of them are well aware about NMW already and are eagerly looking forward to it. So, it’s going to be an honor leading and conducting them to mothing in any kind of scenario they find themselves. Be that by helping them set up their light devices or identifying the species they photograph, or reminding them of some species (like Gazalina) which they should leave alone while mothing lest their scales should cause blindness, or by sharing my understanding on moths, although, I’m far from calling myself an expert.

And well, I myself will be mothing with the light setup from last year. This time, though, I will probably be alone. But I’m equally excited to see what’s awaiting me this year. There are over 3,900 moth species recorded in Nepal (Smith, 2010), and I believe there are certainly many more left out.

Sajan KC

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