Monday, July 23, 2012

National Moth Week Starting Today

This week, July 23-29, is the first ever National Moth Week in North America. Moths are widespread and diverse insects, capable of adapting to many niches and with significant ecological and economic effects. They range in size from micromoths barely bigger than a pin head to giant silkworm moths whose wingspans may measure several inches across. Most are patterned with shades of brown and gray, but some are brightly colored, and even moths with camouflaged forewings may conceal dazzling hindwings underneath. Since moths can be found anywhere and studied without a lot of special equipment, it makes them a natural subject for a citizen science project. Indeed, a National Moth Night has taken place in the United Kingdom for several years.

Anyone can participate in National Moth Week by attending a scheduled public event or by looking for moths themselves. There are currently events scheduled in 20 countries and 49 U.S. states; check the map at the link to find events near you. To study moths on your own, register your location and then leave a light on outdoors at night. Ideally, this would be a bulb that shines into the UV spectrum, like a mercury vapor lamp or blacklight, but even regular bulbs will attract some moths. The light should be near a landing zone, like a wall or a light-colored sheet. Check periodically to record what moths have come to the light and photograph any interesting ones for identification. Here are some suggestions for submitting data. Three websites have set up data collection projects for National Moth Week.