National Moth Week Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

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Some questions about mothing and National Moth Week come up again and again – and that’s OK! Here are some of our most frequently asked questions:

If you have a question that we haven’t answered, please let us know. We’re always happy to hear from you. Contact us:

Why did you designate the last full week of July as National Moth Week?

Mid-summer is a good time for finding moths in most of the northern hemisphere. We decided to keep the date constant from year to year to help organizations who plan their activities in advance. Observing months every year on the same dates is also beneficial to data collecting and analysis over time.

We are hoping to add another NMW in January for moth-ers in the southern hemisphere.

Why are you called NATIONAL Moth Week, when you have events all over the world? 

We don’t specify any nation in particular to which “National” refers. Whatever nation you’re in – that’s the National part of National Moth Week!

Why do you guys care about moths of all things? Why should I care?

Moths can be important bioindicators. A bioindicator is a species or taxon that tells us about the health of an ecosystem. A greater diversity of moths typically means there is a greater diversity of plant species, which leads to a greater diversity of other species as well.  They can help us monitor food plant populations and they are important food sources for many nocturnal AND diurnal organisms. Also, moths typically have a reputation of being drab, dull pests. However, that is certainly not the case. An extreme minority of moth species can cause trouble to humans, but most moths either have no impact on our lives or may serve important ecosystem functions such as pollination. Many moths are actually very interestingly patterned and colored. Moths are a world of sphinxes, hawks, owls, tigers, and scary eyes, all waiting for you outside your door, or perhaps in your home.

How do I find an event to participate in?

Find local events on our maps!

Do I have to participate in an event through a nature center or local group? Can I have my own event in my own backyard?

You can definitely have an event in your own backyard! Mothing doesn’t have to be done at an established nature center, park, etc.. Just hanging out in your backyard looking at moths totally counts as a mothing event.

Why should I have an event in my own backyard?

Your backyard is a ready-made, always available natural habitat in which to observe moths. Many avid moth-ers look for moths in their own backyards during the warm seasons. You’ll be able to see and document what kinds of moths are most common in your area and when they tend to show up. Your own backyard is a great place to host friends and neighbors for a mothing event.

What do I need to do to host an event?

It depends on what kind of mothing event you are planning. You can have a private moth week event in your backyard with just family and friends, to look at moths flying to your porch light or any other type of setup you have (see here for information on how to attract moths).  You can have activities for kids, moth related food and whatever else you can think about.  If you are planning a public event you should advertise it  in your area.  You can use the official National Moth Week flyer and sample news release to advertise your event.

The most important thing you should do is register your event so it will appear on the National Moth Week map.  Not only you will be taking part of a global citizen science project, but you will also be entered a drawing to win moth prizes such as books and posters.

What equipment do I need to moth? Where can I buy it?

The very most basic thing you need is an outdoor light source to attract moths next to a surface for them to rest on. Your light source can be as simple as a porch light over a wall or a door.

More advanced mothers hang sheets between trees or poles or use stand-alone mothing sheets and mercury vapor or UV lights. More information on how to attract moths can be found here.

What if I don’t want to or can’t buy any equipment?

All you need to attract moths is an outdoor light and a surface for the moths to rest on.  The light over your house front door can be your mothing setup.

What is baiting? How do I make bait? Where do I put it?

Baiting is the practice of using a fermented mixture (usually containing brown sugar, molasses, beer and semi-rotten fruit) to attract moths. This is a good way to see moths that aren’t necessarily attracted to lights, but will be drawn to the bait.

You can put the bait almost anywhere. At our mothing events, we generally use a paintbrush to apply the bait to trees a short distance from our lighting set up.

Baiting can be done in both summer and winter months.

I live in a city. Can I participate in NMW even if I live in an apartment?    

Absolutely – urban areas are often home to a surprising amount of biodiversity. Elena lived in apartments in and around New Brunswick throughout graduate school and still managed to moth regularly. There are a couple of options for urban mothing. The first, and easiest, is to travel to a nearby open space or nature center to participate in a mothing event there. If that’s not an option, you can simply use a light on your apartment balcony or on walls outside of your building. Elena used to walk to a nearby temple that had ample outdoor lighting to check out the local moth fauna.

One notable apartment-mother of NMW 2013 was Torsten Wascher of Paderborn Germany who mothed from his balcony. Here’s his setup.

There have even been NMW events specifically hosted in cities, such as Brandon Ballengée’s mothing / art project, Love Motel for Insects in NYC.

Can kids moth? Will they hate it?

Pre-schoolers through teenagers usually love mothing for many reasons.

  • It’s a fun activity for a warm night (and kids love being outdoors at night),

  • It’s generally a family activity involving parents and siblings.

  • Moths are gentle and harmless. They’ll sit on your hand or the brim of your hat. Kids love watching and holding them.

  • Children can learn about the beauty and variety of moths up close

  • More about mothing with kids

I don’t like being out at night / my kids are way too young for nighttime events – is there anything I can do during the day relating to mothing?

During the day, you can search for caterpillars, search for moths that are in their daytime resting state, read stories about moths, visit a moth collection at a museum, make moth crafts… Several NMW events have taken place during the day including the Society of Natural History of Delaware’s Caterpillar Walk and NJAS’s Scherman-Hoffman Center’s Morning with Moths events.

I found some moths! How do I know what they are?  

Use a guide book .  Submit photos to Project Noah, What’s That Bug or BugGuide for help with identification. Here’s some links to these and ID other organizations.

I collected moth data! Where do I submit it? What do you do with it?

NMW participants are encouraged to submit  moth data, as photographs, to any of our partners.  You can also share moth and event photos on the NMW Flickr page  and Facebook page.

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4 thoughts on “Frequently Asked Questions”

    1. On the right-hand-side menu bar there’s a place to enter your email address to subscribe to the blog.

    1. Sharl,
      If you don’t pick up the moths, and make sure they all fly away after your event (so they are not easily found by predator) – running a light for a few hours should not be harmful to any moths.

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