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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
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.
NMW Team Member Jacob Gorneau Turns Youthful Hobby Into College Degree, Graduating from Cornell University in Entomology
Jacob Gorneau was 15 when he came to a moth night in East Brunswick, NJ, in 2013. He and his dad traveled more than 150 miles from upstate New York to meet the NMW team, who’d started the observance just a year earlier. By then, however, Jacob already was a valuable contributor to NMW’s success.
“I had learned about National Moth Week through a citizen science site, Project Noah, (an NMW partner organization) and was able to work as a liaison between Project Noah and NMW for its first year in 2012,” he said.
Jacob’s fascination with moths and the natural world began early. He was hooked after seeing a Black Witch moth on a family trip to Florida. “I couldn’t believe the moth was as large as the geckos near it! I think that was the first time that I became thoroughly enamored with moths.”
To further his interest in insects, he’d challenge himself to stay outside until he found something he’d never seen before. (Sounds like a great way to interest kids in nature.)
“What became clear quickly was how easy it was to see a new moth, spider or any other kind of arthropod,” he said. “The more I learned about how diverse arthropods are, the more I got interested!”
Jacob helped spread the word about NMW to other groups and events. His valuable and growing knowledge about moths helped NMW become more widely known. In 2013, he was invited to become the youngest member of the NMW team.
“I think National Moth Week is an important cause, because looking for moths is an activity for everyone, and learning more about them invites people to have a more open mind when it comes to other organisms – like snakes and spiders – that might be surrounded by a cloud of misconceptions,” he said.
“Mothing is great because all it requires is leaving an outside light on or having an inexpensive mothing setup, and nature will come to you. A lot of common misunderstandings about moths and other arthropods come from a place of fear, and I think the best tool against this fear is education. The outdoors is a great classroom”
This spring, Jacob graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., with a degree in entomology. He will begin graduate studies this fall at San Francisco State University through the California Academy of Sciences. “I hope to pursue a career in academia that incorporates a lot of evolutionary biology and collections-based museum work.”
National Moth Week congratulates Jacob on his graduation and looks forward to many more years of collaboration.
Products with the National Moth Week logo and 2020 dates are now available for purchase on RedBubble.
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National Moth Week, July 18-26, Offers a Safe, Enriching Activity for All Ages; Perfect for Social Distancing
9th Annual Celebration
Discover the Fascinating World of Moths in Your Backyard
Looking for an activity that’s safe, fun and enriching for all ages during this period of social distancing?
The ninth annual National Moth Week, July 18-26, invites novice and experienced “moth-ers,” alike, to observe these fascinating creatures in their own backyards and contribute to our scientific knowledge as part of one of the world’s largest citizen science projects.
While they’ve been maligned as butterflies’ less attractive and sometimes more destructive cousins, moths have always had loyal fans for their diversity, beauty and value as pollinators and food sources for birds and other animals. The beautiful Luna, mystifying Death’s-head and exotic tropical moths have long attracted the attention of artists and writers as well as entomologists.
As people likely will continue avoiding crowds this summer to slow the spread of COVID-19 infections, National Moth Week (NMW) offers the opportunity to learn about nighttime nature from the safety of backyards and gardens; porches, decks and terraces.
Free registration of private and public moth-watching events is encouraged on the NMW website in order to show where moths are being observed around the world. Private street addresses are never displayed. All participants will receive a beautiful certificate of participation designed by Ecuadorean artist Belen Mena of the NMW team.
“This year’s National Moth Week may not feature as many traditional public moth nights as in the past, but it’s still possible to observe and learn about moths while social distancing,” said Liti Haramaty, co-founder of National Moth Week. “All you need is an outdoor light source shining on a wall, door or white sheet. And don’t forget your camera.”
In addition to using lights, moth-ers also can attract moths by coating tree trunks with a sticky, sweet mixture of fruit and stale beer. Searching for caterpillars and day-flying moths is a good activity for daytime. The NMW website offers tips on attracting moths.
Participants are invited to contribute photos and data to NMW partner websites, as well as the NMW Flickr group, which now has over 100,000 moth photos from around the world. Moth observations submitted to iNaturalist.org, a site for sharing observations in the natural world, will be added to the NMW project on that site. Last year, over 27,000 moth observations were posted on iNaturalist.
Since it was established in 2012, NMW has inspired thousands of public and private moth-watching and educational events around the world in over 80 countries and all 50 U.S. states. Sites have included National Parks and Monuments, museums and local recreation areas, private backyards and front porches – wherever there’s a light and a place for them to land.
Last year, hundreds of National Moth Week events were registered around the world, including all 50 states and 47 countries.
“Moth diversity is astonishing and with a little effort it’s amazing what can be found in a backyard or local park,” said NMW co-founder David Moskowitz, Ph.D. “Some of my most exciting moth adventures have been in my own small backyard. Exploring yours is sure to yield moth treasures that are just waiting to be found.”
National Moth Week was founded by the Friends of the East Brunswick (N.J.) Environmental Commission, a nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental education and conservation. It is now one of the most widespread citizen science projects in the world. It is coordinated by volunteers in New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Washington State, Ecuador, India and Hong Kong.
For more information about National Moth Week, visit the website at nationalmothweek.org, or write to email@example.com. Also, find National Moth Week on Facebook, Twitter (@moth_week) and Instagram (mothweek). #Nationalmothweek #mothweek
Why study moths?
- Part of the Lepidoptera order of insects, moths are among the most diverse and successful organisms on earth.
- Scientists estimate there are 150,000 to more than 500,000 moth species.
- Their colors and patterns are either dazzling or so cryptic that they define camouflage. Shapes and sizes span the gamut from as small as a pinhead to as large as an adult’s hand.
- Most moths are nocturnal, and need to be sought at night to be seen – others fly like butterflies during the day.
- Finding moths can be as simple as leaving a porch light on and checking it after dark. Serious moth aficionados use special lights and baits to attract them.
This year during NMW, I gave a talk on moths, in general and as pollinators, as part of New Hampshire Audubon’s Pollinator series. It seems to be hard in NH to get random folks to stay up late enough so get the best moths. But we had fun. It’s always great to introduce people to these “jewels of the night”. As usual, I set up lights throughout the week alternately at two locations: southern NH and central, but in the White Mountains. My species numbers were lower this year. But the whole season here was the same. I had the now-expected weather vagaries. One day was 97 degrees. One day we had 1.5″ inches of rain at my house. My commonest visitor was 8203 – Halysidota tessellaris – Banded Tussock Moth. Not a surprise, but what was was the super-abundance of the caterpillar later in the season. The stars must have been aligned for the species this year!
National Moth Week is pleased to welcome Oz Rittner of Tel Aviv University in Israel as the newest NMW country coordinator.
Oz is the Lepidoptera collection manager at the Steinhardt Museum at the Israel National Center for Biodiversity Studies at the university. He started and maintains Israel-nature-site.com and has been an NMW partner since the beginning.
“I have a great interest in moths and beetles, in particular,” Oz says. “From the age of 14, I started to collect butterflies, and soon enough I realized that moths are the ones that need more special attention. Later, I started studying beetles as well for the same reason.”
In addition to being the collection manager at the museum, Oz is also a photographer there and is dedicated to capturing images of elusive moths.
He operates light traps across Israel “in order to encounter rare and unique species that elude the eyes otherwise.”
“This gives me the best conditions for photographing but it’s also the best tool to actually see many interesting species and collect large amount of data in just a few hours,” he says. “For me photography and taxonomy are mere tools for studying the insects fauna of Israel, which are very diverse and still in great need of research.”
As a country coordinator, Oz will help promote National Moth Week throughout Israel and encourage people of all ages and abilities to participate by hosting or attending events and submitting photos and data to partner websites.
The annual Moth Night was held in the Botanic Gardens, Cairns on 28 August 2019. More than 50 members of the public attended, including several children. It was a perfect night–warm, windless and dry. Moth Night is an international event with over a dozen countries taking part. It was organised in the Northern Hemisphere during July. Of course, it is mid-summer in July in those climes and moths are at their peak abundance at that time. We decided to hold our Moth Night a month later this year so it would be closer to Spring and maybe a few more moths than usual would be active. It seemed to be a good move but we feel it would have been even more productive if it were not so dry. A good rain a couple of weeks prior to the even might have prompted more insects to emerged from their winter slumber.
Moth-ers assembled at 6.00 pm in the Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre for a short talk and to meet one another and view a couple of drawers of local moth specimens that they might encounter later. Light refreshments were served and then the attendees went out to check the two light sheets, We wandered around observing and photographing insects that were active in the vicinity of the light sheets. Most folks agreed that spiders outnumbered the insects. Several large Wolf Spiders and Huntsmen of various sizes were out and about. Lacewing eggs and a few caterpillars as well as nymphal katydids were discovered.
Photos were provided by Kylie Brown (KB), Louisa Grandy (LG) and Buck Richardson (BR).
To see more photos – click here
This is my second year of National Moth Week. While last year I organized a public moth watching event at a national park in Nepal (Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park, Kathmandu), this year was different. I set up a light trap this year using a 160W Mercury Vapor Lamp and a white sheet during the entire month of July in 2 different districts of Nepal; Tanahun (for about 2 days) and Kaski ( for the rest of the month) with altitudes ranging from 2300 ft.-3800 ft.
Every (almost!) night after 7 PM, I would set up the light trap either at a special location or just on the balcony of my house. I’d then take a chair and sit by the light trap with my camera (also an umbrella if it’s raining). I photographed and recorded more than 300 different species of moths only during the entire month. Some other attendees were Hemipterans, Coleopterans, Hymenopterans, Trichopterans and Mantodeans.
National Moth Week is something that should be expanded and celebrated in countries all across the globe. After all, butterflies aren’t the only ones which are attractive!