Saturday, July 26, 2014

Get Out and Get Mothing This Week!

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Okay, admit it, you do not know what "mothing" is...

I did not either until the other night when the kids and I enjoyed a local "Moth Ball" in celebration of National Moth Week (an observance that we also did not know existed until a few weeks earlier!) 

A Moth Ball?

That's right.  We enjoyed accepting an open invitation to the public to join the Southeastern Massachusetts Pine Barrens Alliance for an evening of Mothing and moth fun.

For us, that evneing started with the kids making moth costumes...

viewing moth caterpillars...

and discovering other critters.

It, then, progressed with joining others for a lovely ramble along the Eel River to the Russell Mill Pond...

where we discovered aphids on flower stems and other creatures.

Then, it was time for for the Moth Costume Parade...

where Jack hopped along trying to fly like a moth in the lead, and  Luke won a prize!

Finally, it got dark enough for an outdoor slideshow presentation where Stephanie Schmidt, a Wildlife Biologist, explained about local Lepdoptera...

 to an enraptured Luke and all the other guests...

Meanwhile some of the children became captured by moths and other critters that came to join the ball...


And the night concluded with viewing some very cool moth caterpillars...

and simply enjoying our first experience "Mothing"!


So, what exactly is "mothing"?  

Basically, it is the art of attracting and discovering samples of the 110,000+ species of moths that fly about this world.

Done casually, or scientifically with defined protocols, mothing provides an interesting mix of outdoor fun, science and, well, bugs.  Plus, as we discovered at the Moth Ball, it is an activity that appeals to a wide range of ages!  Young and old alike seem to thrill at the mission of attracting, discovering and observing moths up close.

Why Moths?

Why not?  Moths are easy to attract and learn about.

In fact, there are only about 1,000 species of butterflies in North America, yet over 11,000 species of moths.  And, worldwide, where scientists have categorized some 28,000 butterfly species, they have discovered over110,000 moth species.  It follows, then, that with so many moths out there, it would be difficult not to succeed at finding some during a "mothing" adventure!  And who does not like success?

Beautiful success is even better!  

Yes, moths are often under-appreciated, yet incredible.  For while some are common, others are amazing!  From teeny tiny critters to relatively huge ones, each with their own, often spectacular, design, moths can be beautiful to observe.

Known to many folks as pests, the truth is moths are also incredibly helpful pollinators and magnificently designed creatures.  Truly, I cannot say that I had ever really paused to notice the beauty of the different patterns on moths until the other night at the Moth Ball.  And, now, all I can only say is, "Wow!  Moths are yet another testimony to an amazingly creative master designer of beauty."

Don't believe me?  Think all moths are rather common and dull, check out these pictures folks have been capturing all around the world.  Gorgeous!

Mothing Methods

At the Moth Ball, we experienced the Black Light Method, which is basically aiming ablack light near a white sheet to attract moths into resting ont he sheet for observation.

Then, when we got home, we took advantage of our front porch light and screen door.  Yep, the good old Porch Light Method.

In future weeks, we may try the Bait and Wait Method I heard about at the Moth Ball, too.  Basically, this includes mixing up a paste of things like bananas, stale beer and brown sugar with add-ins, such as watermelon, maple syrup, honey, or vanilla, and letting it ferment for a few days.  Then, painting it on trees and waiting for moths that don't like light to gather (which you can then observe with a flashlight with a red cellophane cap).

ID and Other Resources

If you'd like to identify the moths you discover, you could ask a local Lepidopterist or Moth-er as Jack did.  Or, try using a book by one of our favorite nature authors for kids, Jim Arnosky's Crinkleroot's Guide to Knowing Butterflies and Moths.  Or, turn to other Moth Identification Books and online resources, such as What's that Bug,  the Bug Guide

If you're curious about what makes moths and butterflies different, observation can be a great way to begin answering your questions and websites and books, of course, can fill in the rest.

The Lepidopterist Society, I just discovered, has kits and resources for kids.

Plus, there are wonderful links, a downloadable coloring book and more at the National Moth Week Kids' Page.

Thank you to the Southeastern Massachusetts Pine Barrens Alliance for hosting such a fun event and introducing us to Mothing!  All of us -- young and older -- enjoyed it!

Have you discovered the fun of mothing?


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