July 21-29 is National Moth Week! This week is a time to celebrate moths and encourage everyday people to become citizen scientists by tracking moths in their area at mothing parties.
According to photographer Neal Lewis, visual specialist with Shenandoah National Park, the hummingbird clearwing moth is one of the most difficult subjects he has ever attempted to photograph. This unusual pollinator flies during the day, unlike other members of the sphinx moth family, and is often mistaken for a hummingbird because of the way it hovers in midair.
At mothing parties, participants lure moths with light and food, photograph the insects, and submit their photos to any of National Moth Week’s 19 partners, like the Encyclopedia of Life and the Natural History Information System, which use submitted data and photos to track moth populations and educate people about wildlife. Many of these partners accept submissions year-round.
Here’s how to throw a mothing party of your own!
- Start with a light source. Moths love light, and a porch light or flashlight is the easiest way to attract moths. Entomologists say moths prefer blacklights and mercury vapor lights, but any light source can draw moths in.
- Give the moths a surface to rest on. Hanging a white sheet, or using a wall of your house, will let moths bask in the light while you snap a picture.
- Make some party snacks! Moths are attracted to the scent of fruit and fermented sugar. National Moth Week’s recipe calls for ingredients like bananas, beer and molasses, but any similar combination will have moths flocking to your party. Brush the mixture onto nearby trees for best results. Don’t forget to bring some treats for human partygoers, too!
- Take some pictures! Snap photos of the moths and submit to one of their partner sites to help further moth science and education and show off your party’s results.
For more information, visit nationalmothweek.org
— By Ashley Goodman