Published on July 31, 2022

Moth Nights in July… and August

July 23-31, 2022 was National Moth Week

Yes, summer in Texas is hot. But life goes on in our prairies. This warm season is a good time to observe the insects and reptiles that live there. Evenings can be very interesting. Why not try moths? National Moth Week celebrated its 11th year this July.  There were events held throughout the country, including a Moth Night at the Dixon Water Foundation’s Leo Ranch and NPAT’s Lawther-Deer Park Prairie. These events offer a chance for everyone to learn and contribute observations about our moths.

National Moth Week is a citizen science project that started in East Brunswick, New Jersey and now has participants across the globe. Observations of moths and other nocturnal insects are submitted to iNaturalist and other organizations such as Butterflies and Moths of North America (butterfliesandmoths.org), where they can be used by the scientific community in species mapping. Learn more about National Moth Week at nationalmothweek.org.

Mothing activities can be conducted almost any time of year. The photo above was from a bio-blitz held last August at Maddin Prairie Preserve. This resulted in several new observations. Check out Maddin Prairie Preserve-NPAT on iNaturalist.org.

The lights of mothing stations at night

Moth Night at the Leo Ranch

The North Texas Outreach and Stewardship Program led by Dr. Carly Aulicky celebrated National Moth Week with a nocturnal bio-blitz at the Dixon Water Foundation’s Josey Pavilion on Saturday, July 23. More than thirty participants, including a group of students from the University of North Texas, came out to document moths and other nocturnal insects. Moth enthusiasts set up twelve mothing stations, which are typically white sheets illuminated with a blacklight. The group recorded ~578 observations of 182 species of insects to iNaturalist.

Some of Carly Aulicky’s observations included a Yellow-Banded Pyrausta, Virginia Creeper Sphinx Moth and a Mantidfly.

Moth Night at Deer Park Prairie

The Houston Chapter of NPAT hosted a Moth Night on July 30 at Lawther-Deer Park Prairie. Andrea Matthews provided these photos from the mothing stations.

Why 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. They come in a wide range of sizes and shapes.
  • 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.

For those wanting to delve deeper into moth identification, check out the plate series of the Moth Photographers Group at Mississippi Entomological Museum at mothphotographersgroup.msstate.edu/Plates.shtml.

White Spring Moth, Southern Purple Mint Moth and Black-shaded Platynota. (Photos courtesy of Kelly Walker.)

Finding Moths

Here are some tips from nationalmothweek.org:

Set up lights

  • Any type of light will attract moths. Just leave a porch light on and wait and see what is attracted to it. If you are in the field, you can use battery-operated lights or even a flashlight. Entomologists use black lights and mercury vapor lights, which emit light in a color spectrum that moths find irresistible.
  • Moths need a surface to rest on. White sheets are often used. Hang a sheet and shine the light on it. An outside wall also works well if your light is set up near a building.
  • Wait for the moths to come to your light so you can observe and photograph them.

Sugaring for moths

  • Moths can smell food from a distance. When provided with fermented sugar and fruit, they will fly right to it. This method of attracting moth is simply called ‘sugaring’.  Read more about sugaring for moths ….
  • Make “moth food” A mix of sugar, fruit (banana, peach or other overripe fruit) and beer will work.
  • Brush the mix on a surface an hour before dusk.
  • Check every 30 minutes to see what’s coming to the bait.

Mothing in your backyard!

Get together with your family for a homegrown mothing party. It’s a great activity to help introduce children to nature after dark. Check out the kids page for more ideas.

Check out Rich Kostecke’s National Moth Week Facebook album.


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