Flutterly Fascinating

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Published on: Jun. 2, 2009

Last revision: Dec. 14, 2010

is highly attractive to moths. In one study, sphinx moths released 300 yards from flowers bolted straight for the flower bed, presumably following the scent. Plant four o’clocks, dame’s rocket, and night-blooming nicotanias to attract moths to your yard.

Sphinx moths learn where their preferred flowers are and follow a set route each day, stopping to sip nectar along the way. Several years ago, a single yellow evening primrose in my yard opened each day at dusk. Like clockwork, the petals unfurled at the same time each night. For about one week, just moments after the flower opened, a sphinx moth hovered in front of the flower sipping nectar.

In addition to planting flowers, try luring moths with sweet, fermented bait. Instead of throwing out overripe bananas, mash them and stir in a few spoonfuls of brown sugar and about half a can of beer. The exact amount can vary, and you can use other overly ripe, mashed fruits. Let the mixture ferment at room temperature for a day or two for best results and store any leftovers in the refrigerator for about a week. The bait should be a thick mixture that you can spread onto about one square foot of a tree trunk with a new paintbrush. Brushing it onto several trees in the same area will increase the chances of insects finding your bait. A wide variety of moths, including zales and underwings, are attracted to bait.

If you check your bait during the day, you might find butterflies, such as red admirals, goatweed leafwings and question marks. Use caution with bait if you live in an area of the state with black bears. Wasps may be at the bait during daylight hours but are usually docile because they are away from their nests.

Moths and Lights

Everyone knows that moths can be found at lights. Current thinking is that moths aren’t really attracted to lights, but are trapped by them. Bright lights at night cause a sensory overload. Scientists think moths see dark areas either adjacent to or in the center of the light source. Moths try to fly towards that dark area, but as they move, their perspective changes, and they continually change directions, remaining in the vicinity of the light.

An older explanation for why moths are attracted to lights is that moths use the moon for navigation and confuse artificial lights with the

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