In celebration of National Moth Week, which is celebrating its 5th anniversary this year, I decided to try to photograph and identify some of the moths around my house this week.
This isn’t a new activity for me. In fact, I did the same thing last week, just for fun. Then someone emailed me to tell me about National Moth Week (July 23-31), and I thought I ought to do something, given my recent fascination with moths.
Moth lovers — or “moth-ers” — are celebrating moths all across the country this week. You can check it out on nationalmothweek.org, where you’ll learn that scientists estimate there are 150,000-500,000 moth species worldwide. (Quite a range, if you ask me, but I suppose it’s difficult to document so many species all over the world.)
When it comes to finding moths, I’ve noticed that I rarely just stumble upon one during the day, and that’s because most moths are nocturnal. Some fly during the day like butterflies, but those species are few and far between.
So, to find moths around my property, I simply leave my porch lights on. Serious moth enthusiasts use special lights and bait to attract a wider variety of moths, but I haven’t risen to that level yet. Maybe I’m just lazy.
I have two lights on my back porch, and one light on my front porch. Sometimes I go out at night to see what the lights are attracting, but it can be a little bit hectic out there at that time, with all the insects flying around — including mosquitoes and beetles. So usually I just wait until morning and see what’s still sticking around.
In my experience doing this, the moths are calm during the morning. The ones that have stuck around are simply resting on the wall of my house. I find that some moths are so docile that I can pick them up and they’ll just cling to my finger. I then bring them over to the sunlight to take photographs. Other moths — usually the smaller ones — are less “friendly.” If you touch them, they’ll just fly away.
Since not many people I know are into photographing insects, I recently joined a closed Facebook group called “Moths and Moth-watching.” It’s an international group with more than 6,000 members. People post moth photos from all over the world. It’s pretty cool, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Identifying moths can be pretty tricky, but if you’re lacking a field guide, there are a few good websites. So far, I’ve found two helpful. Project Noah has a large database of moth species and photos contributed by nature lovers throughout Maine. I enjoy this website because it’s Maine specific and includes a lot of photos. However, you really just have to run through it and look at photos until you find one that looks like the moth you’re trying to identify. On the other hand, the Maine moth checklist on butterfliesandmoths.org is a more organized format, but you have to click on the name of a moth species to see a photo.
This is my third blog about moths, I believe, and it probably won’t be my last. But I promise, after this, I’ll do my best to move onto some other aspect of nature to photograph and learn about! There’s so much out there.
Here are a few more recent moth photos, and a few old favorites, in honor of National Moth Week! Keep in mind that I am just starting to try to identify moths, and my IDs may be wrong. If you think you know the proper ID, please comment it! I won’t be offended.