8th Annual Celebration
July 20-28, 2019
National Moth Week 2019, July 20-28, Celebrates
Nature’s Unheralded Pollinators
Moths’ vital role as nature’s often unheralded nighttime pollinators will be spotlighted during the 8th Annual National Moth Week, July 20-28.
National Moth Week (NMW) invites moth enthusiasts – a.k.a. “moth-ers” – of all ages and abilities to participate in this worldwide citizen science project that literally shines a light on moths, their beauty, ecological diversity and critical role in the natural world. Online registration is in full swing with events registered in 15 countries and 24 U.S. states as of late April.
Since it was established in 2012, NMW has inspired thousands of public and private moth-watching and educational events around the world in nearly 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.
While honeybees get the lion’s share of attention as pollinators, moths accomplish a significant amount of pollination under cover of darkness, according to a study in the U.K. reported on in Science Daily. By analyzing pollen grains found on moths, researchers suggested that “moths supplement the daytime work of bees and other pollinating insects…” and do their work over wider areas than bees.
”Pollination is a critical ecosystem service that ensures plants can maintain genetically diverse populations,” said Dr. Elena Tartaglia, a founding member of the National Moth Week team, whose research also has focused on moth pollinators. “Moths that visit flowers will also benefit from this relationship by getting energy in the form of nectar. In the process, moths carry pollen from plant to plant, allowing for fertilization between distant individuals.”
Though often maligned as butterflies’ unattractive cousins and nighttime nuisances, moths have always had loyal fans among entomologists and naturalists for their beauty and value as pollinators and a food source for other animals. Today, moths also are being observed to determine the impact of climate change on their numbers and distribution.
“National Moth week has introduced thousands of citizen scientists around the world to the fascinating world of nighttime nature,” said NMW co-founder David Moskowitz. “People of all ages and abilities can document moths in their local habitats and contribute their photos and observations of these important creatures.”
Studying moths at night is as simple as turning on a porch light and waiting for them to come, or shining a light on a white sheet in a backyard or park. Ambitious moth-ers also coat 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.
Anyone can register a public or private event or locate one to attend in their area by checking nationalmothweek.org for public events. Registration is free to individuals, groups and organizations, and is encouraged so people can locate public events in their area. The NMW website features an events map showing the locations of events around the world. This year’s events include a Moth Fest in Alabama, a 24-hour “Nature Palooza” in Vermont, and mothing in Australia.
Participants are invited to contribute their photos and data to NMW partner websites, as well as the NMW Flickr group, which now has nearly 95,000 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.
National Moth Week was founded in 2012 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 an all-volunteer team in New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Washington State, Ecuador, India and Hong Kong.
Why study moths?
- 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.