**Today, we have a special guest post from Chris Goforth, Senior Manager of Citizen Science at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. When she’s not leading visitors on citizen science adventures at the Museum’s Prairie Ridge Ecostation, Chris blogs about entomology and natural history at thedragonflywoman.com.**
I love moths! Always have. I grew up in Colorado, and every 4 or 5 years we’d have a “miller moth” invasion. Millions of army cutworm moths would suddenly descend on the city. You’d drive through swarms of them at night. Some people were scared to get out of their cars or leave their houses because of the moths attracted to the lights. The moths got into everything – your house, your car, your yard, any little crack or crevice they could find – completely insinuating themselves into our lives for just a few weeks before disappearing again so completely you almost forgot they’d been there at all. I had friends who were terrified of the millers, who would scream bloody murder when they accidentally disturbed a daytime roosting site and were engulfed in a cloud of confused moths, but I thought they were magical. I loved being swept up in those swarms of moths! I still do.
Happily for me and my fellow moth lovers, Saturday marked the start of the second annual National Moth Week! In case you’re not aware of this fun and science-rich holiday, National Moth Week aims to increase awareness of and appreciation for moths by drawing the public’s attention to them during a 9-day long celebration, July 20-28th this year. The organizers encourage everyone to go outside during Moth Week and take a look at the local moths. Your participation could be as simple as turning on your porch light for a few hours and watching the moths as they fly in. I recommend that you take a good, close look at any moths you see! They are full of surprises with amazing antennae, mouthparts, patterns, and behaviors. If you want to contribute to science, snap photos of the moths you see at your lights and submit them to one or more citizen science projects, such as Butterflies and Moths of North America, Discover Life’s moth project, Project Noah, or iNaturalist. You could even get really fancy and set up a blacklight in your yard. Moths are attracted to most lights, but blacklights or mercury vapor lights are supercharged with moth attracting goodness! Put one up in your yard and you’ll get moths you might never see at your porch light.
If you want to go all out for National Moth Week, consider hosting a moth party. Invite a few friends over, offer a few snacks and beverages, then sit out by your lights to await the arrival of the moths. Based on my experience with entomologists, many of whom consider sitting by blacklight-lit sheets out in the middle of nowhere a very fine way to spend an evening, alcoholic beverages can add to your mothing experience if you choose to offer them. And even if you don’t have refreshments, a moth party is a great way to appreciate moths with your friends while spending an enjoyable evening outside. Adding your party to the National Moth Week list of events will give it an extra air of authenticity. Don’t worry: you can list your party as private if you don’t want strangers showing up at your door.
But perhaps you don’t want to go through the hassle of planning an event. No problem! National Moth Week encourages everyone to host public moth nights during the event. I have a one-woman party every night of moth week at my house, but I also have a public moth night planned at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ outdoor facility, Prairie Ridge Ecostation. If you’d like to join us, feel free to stop by 1671 Gold Star Drive (bring a flashlight!) between 8PM and midnight this Saturday, July 27th. We’ll have several mothing stations up where you can observe moths and learn about their life cycles, behaviors, and basic identification. If you want to bring a camera, we would love for you to contribute data to citizen science projects as well. Come on out and help us watch some moths! Or if Raleigh is too far from home, you can search for public events on the National Moth Week website and find a party nearby.
National Moth Week is a great event, so get out there! Stake out your porch light tonight. Snap a few photos. Send in some data. Get a few moth scales up your nose as you get a little too close and scare the moth away. Just get out there and look at your moths! Moths deserve our love and respect, so enjoy National Moth Week while it lasts. I know I will!
Chris Goforth is the Senior Manager of Citizen Science at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences where she leads citizen science and science education programs. An aquatic entomologist, Chris founded the Dragonfly Swarm Project, a citizen science project documenting the occurrence and behavior of dragonfly swarms worldwide. Chris blogs about entomology and natural history at thedragonflywoman.com.