The Humble Moth
August is a great time to celebrate one of the most diverse families of life that exists today. Celebrate with us by learning more about these amazing insects!
Moths and butterflies are both enjoyed by people, but moths often lose the popularity contest because most are nocturnal and difficult to observe. Although butterflies have brighter coloration, many moths have complex patterns and markings that make these insects unique. If one spends time looking through a field guide to moths, they will begin to appreciate their beauty and diversity.
Moths are an ancient species which evolved long before butterflies. Moths, just like butterflies, start as caterpillars and metamorphose into their flying adult stage. Caterpillars feed on their host plant specific to their own species. Once the caterpillars are nearing the next stage of metamorphosis, the will form cocoons, burrows, or tents to prepare themselves for the transformation into their adult stage.
Moths come in all shapes, sizes, and coloration. Many are small and difficult to identify, even for the expert. However, many moths show distinctive body shape and markings that distinguish it from other species. Many large silkworm moths, such as the Luna and the IO moth, are very easy to identify.
If you look for moths during the day, you may have a difficult time finding any. At night, however, moths frequent your front porch and your windows where electric lights have illuminated their surroundings. On some calm nights, one may find thousands of moths around one street lamp. The use of lighting is a simple way to attract moths to you if you wish to see them up close. Pin a plain white sheet to the side of your house and shine a bright light on it for a few minutes to attract moths easily and quickly. Certain specialty lights, such as mercury vapor and black lights, will attract moths more efficiently than regular incandescent lightbulbs.
The best way to learn your moths is to take pictures of any that land on your moth sheet. Moths may not stay still long enough for you to observe their often cryptic markings. A camera allows you to identify many moths long after the moth lights have been put away. A field guide is an essential tool for the beginner moth naturalist.
At Intervale lowlands, we have documented moths that are on the preserve property during our moth nights. We use a white sheet and a mercury vapor lamp to attract all kinds of moths. Check out photographs taken by Larry Master of just a few of the amazing moths we have found on the preserve!