Flutterly Fascinating

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Published on: Jun. 2, 2009

Last revision: Dec. 14, 2010

light from the moon. If a moth is flying at a specific angle in relation to the moon and then transfers that angle to an artificial light, it will continually alter its flight path as it passes the light, eventually spiraling in close to the bulb. In response to bright light — or daylight — moths land.

Whatever the attraction, lights are a good way to get a look at moths not enticed by flowers or bait. Silk moths, such as the luna moth, do not feed as adults. They live only about a week as adults, subsisting on walnut or hickory leaves eaten as caterpillars.

You can attract many moths with your porch light, but if you are serious about finding a wide variety of moths, use either a mercury vapor bulb or a black light. Those bulbs produce different wavelengths of light which attract different species. Try not to leave your lights on every night; moths and other insects will be drawn to the light instead of engaging in normal behaviors.

Many people think of moths (and most other insects) as pests, believing all moths eat clothes and crops. In reality, only about 2 percent of all insects worldwide cause problems, such as feeding on crops or transmitting diseases. The rest are critical components of ecosystems. Learning more about moths and their life histories will help you understand basic biological concepts including species interactions, ecological adaptations, and the importance of conserving biodiversity.

Take a few steps out your door and check out the moths in your yard. A fascinating world awaits you.

A Moth Photo Collection

You can use a compact digital camera to create a virtual moth collection, avoiding the upkeep of a traditional collection. Keep records of the moths seen in your yard or neighborhood park. More than a hundred species can easily be found in most yards in a year.

Moth Learning Library

The Department of Conservation’s Butterflies and Moths of Missouri by J. Richard and Joan E. Heitzman is a good starting point for learning more about Missouri’s moths. It includes 833 color photos and descriptions of 324 species. Range, habits, size and status of each are included in the 385 pages. Butterflies and Moths of Missouri is available for $18 plus shipping and handling, and sales tax (where applicable) by calling toll free (877) 521-8632 or visiting our online Nature Shop or at Conservation Nature Centers statewide.

A Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America by Charles V. Covell, Jr., covers many more species of moths than the state guide.

Discovering Moths: Nighttime Jewels in Your Own Backyard is John Himmelman’s entertaining story of his adventures searching for moths. He provides information on their biology, including time of year when certain moths are most likely to be seen, along with insight into attitudes toward moths.

One of the best online resources for not only moths, but all insects, is BugGuide (see link below). You can search through photographs or submit a photo and ask for identification help. Frequently, you’ll have your answer within the day.

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