Moth watchers to flock to Idaho Museum of Natural History for Moth Day 2015

Staff Report

POCATELLO – We know them as pests who can infest clothing and gardens; but scientists know and admire the moth as one of the most diverse and successful creatures on planet earth.

Moth admiration spawned a national commemorative week that started in 2005 in New Jersey and has since migrated to museums and national parks across the United States. National Moth Week begins Saturday and continues through July 25.

Tuesday, The Idaho Museum of Natural History will commemorate National Moth Week with a free Moth Party from 10 – 11:30 p.m. White tents and bright lights will be set up near the museum’s back door in an effort to attract both partiers and live moths. People can then photograph and, with the help of museum staff, identify the moths. The museum will also provide pizza to the the first 25 people who come.

“National Moth Week is a fun and educational way to introduce kids to science through the world of moths,” said Jacob Gorneau, 17, a junior at Greenville High School in New York and the youngest member of the National Moth Week organizing committee. “With about 12,000 species in North America, and many more to be described, the beginner can expect something new at the light almost every time.”

The Pocatello event is one of hundreds of similar events that will take place across the country. Last year, more than 400 events were held in all 50 states and 42 countries. Moth-watching and educational events are held throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, South, Central, andNorth America. This year’s public events registered so far include a “Malt, Hops and Moths” night in Texas, “Moth and Moon Viewing” in Washington State, “Moth Mystery Night” in Michigan and moth night at Grand Canyon National Park.

The events this year aim to shine a light on the Sphingidae family. These are commonly known as hawk moths, sphinx moths and hornworms. The iconic moth that appears on movie posters for “The Silence of the Lambs” is a sphinx moth. Edgar Allan Poe also features a sphinx moth in his short story, “The Sphinx.” In it, the main character mistakenly thinks the moth on a window is a huge monster. Much to his surprise his friend points out it is, in fact, very close and not on a hill in the distance. While hornworms might be a tomato-grower’s blight, they eventually morph into large and dramatically-colored moths. 

“Hawk moths are important pollinators of native plants, especially in arid environments like the American Southwest,” said NMW team member Dr. Elena Tartaglia. “They visit plants to get nectar and in the process, their large furry bodies can carry a lot of pollen. Like most moths, they are an important component of food webs as food for birds, small mammals, lizards and predatory insects.”

According to a press release from the NMW organizers, people “of all ages and abilities are encouraged to learn about, observe and document moths in their backyards, parks, and neighborhoods.”

A moth-ing event can simply involve turning on a porch light at night and watching what happens or going outside in daylight to find caterpillars and diurnal moths like the hummingbird moth. Participants can use ordinary light bulbs, UV lights or mercury vapor lights to attract moths or brush sweet moth bait on tree barks.

“Moths can be observed anywhere, anytime,” said NMW co-founder Liti Haramaty. “It’s easy and fun – just turn on a light and wait for the moths to find it. Anyone with a cell phone or digital camera can contribute to our knowledge about moths’ diversity and distribution, and help us to better understand the impact of human activities on the ecology of our planet.”

For more facts about moths, visit http://nationalmothweek.org.

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