National Moth Week shines a spotlight on both the daytime world of leaf-loving, crawling moth caterpillars and the nighttime realm of flying, winged moths. The 11th Annual National Moth Week runs July 23-31, 2022.
The organizers encourage “moth-ers” of all ages and abilities to take part in this international citizen science project. Anyone – individual, group, or organization – can register their Moth Week events free at nationalmothweek.org.
Caterpillars and moths are perhaps both best known as crop-devoring, clothes-destroying pests. But Moth Week tries to dispel this notion by encouraging people to observe and learn about their important roles in ecosystems around the world.
“Caterpillars are the larval form of adult moths and come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and a rainbow of colors,” said ecologist Dr. Elena Tartaglia, professor of biology at Bergen Community College and founding member of the NMW team.
“They are fun to look for and there is no need to stay up late because they can be found during the day.”
“This year we’re looking to increase data submissions of caterpillars, while of course still celebrating the adult life stage we all love,” Tartaglia said.
For those who do want to observe at night, it’s as simple as turning on a porch light and seeing what’s flying. Hanging a sheet for moths to land on, and adding black light kits or mercury vapor set-ups, can add to the number of moth species spotted in their natural habitats. (Remember that caution and correct equipment are always essential when using electric lighting outdoors, including safe use of any generators.)
Founded in 2012, National Moth Week asks participants to share their moth photos and other data with partner organizations like iNaturalist, Project Noah, Bug Guide and others. Scientists can use this data study the distribution of moth species and learn where climate change or pollution may threaten them. Amateur observers from all over the world have posted hundreds of thousands of moth photos.
Since its 2012 inception, Moth Week has inspired moth-watching and educational events, both public and private, in all 50 U.S. states and over 90 countries. People have hosted events at National Parks and Monuments, museums and local recreation areas, private backyards, and front porches – wherever there’s a light and a place for moths to land.
What’s so important about moths? Though their nocturnal schedule makes them often overlooked, moths are important pollinators. Even those that aren’t pollinators can be important food sources for other pollinator organisms, like birds and bats.
Moths are among the most diverse and successful organisms on earth. Scientists estimate there are 150,000 to more than 500,000 moth species. In Oklahoma alone, there are more than 1,600 species of moths. They vary in size from microscopic to larger than your hand!
Some moths’ colors and patterns are dazzling, while others make extremely effective camouflage. Though most are nocturnal, some fly like butterflies during the day.
National Moth Week is a project of the Friends of the East Brunswick (N.J.) Environmental Commission, a nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental education and conservation.
It has grown into one of the most widespread citizen science projects in the world. Volunteers on the NMW team, together with country coordinators around the world, coordinate the event. It runs annually for nine days during the last full week and two weekends of July.
For more information about National Moth Week, visit nationalmothweek.org. The website is chock-full of fascinating information about moths, featuring an especially strong selection of materials for kids.