Ento-musings from the University of Kentucky Department of Entomology

Sunday, July 22, 2012

National Moth Week 2012

Blake Newton, UK Extension Entomologist

 Hey! This week (July 23-29) is National Moth Week. Happy Moth Week! I just learned about this the other day, actually, but I am going to do my best to participate. The goal of National Moth Week is to raise awareness about the incredible diversity of moths. With over 10,000 species of moths in North America, and about 125,000 on earth, there are a LOT of moths to celebrate this week. And many people don't realize that some of our moths are just as interesting to look at (if not more so) than butterflies. You can read more about National Moth Week at their website.

I am going to join the Moth Week festivities by taking a picture of a different moth every day this week and then trying to figure out what it is. This will be a good challenge for me because I am not really a moth guy (moth man?). Compared with other types of insects, I find moths very hard to identify. The problem, I think, is that most moths (and butterflies) are identified based on color patterns.* With most other insect groups, I.D. is based on body structures. For whatever reason, I am better at seeing the differences between body structures than color patterns. But I want to become more familiar with moths, so I am looking forward to this week. Luckily, I am in a good location for moth observation. My house is located next to a greenway, and we see lots of different kinds of moths at our porch light every night. For the blog, I will post a picture of one moth each day and detail the process that I use to figure out what kind of moth it is. Since I will just be using pictures (the only way to truly, properly I.D. a moth is by capturing it and examining it under the scope), I will probably get some or all of the identifications wrong. But I'm sure that I will learn something along the way!

So get your insect nets, ultraviolet lights, and party hats, and join us for National Moth Week 2012!

 (*This isn't quite true. Real, hardcore moth and butterfly I.D. is based mostly on wing-vein patterns. The problem is that you can't see a moth's wing veins without stripping its wings of their colorful scales--a process know as "clearing the wings". This process is not only complicated, but it also requires that you catch and kill the moth! So when you can't clear its wings, the best way to I.D. most moths is by the color pattern on their wings.)

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