Monday, July 30, 2012

A Little Love and Respect for Moths

It's been a big flap forward for Moths everywhere this past week, as the first ever National Moth Week took place!  Mothing events were held around the country, where people got together to learn more about these weird looking fascinating creatures and to see what moths they could find. 

This Imperial Moth (Eacles imperialis) showed up at the Red House Garden awhile back.  The picture doesn't do it justice - this thing was enormous!
Mothing is pretty easy - just turn on your porch light at night and see what shows up.  Moth enthusiasts also use special lights and baits to attract more moths.  I did the porch light thing the other night and went outside to see what I could find.  I honestly thought it would be a little unpleasant and, well, buggy with bugs flying all around, but it was actually pretty fascinating to see what was attracted to the porch light (and thankfully nothing bit me).

A moth that was attracted to my porch light
Moths and butterflies are from the same order of insects (Lepidoptera).  I was surprised to learn that there are actually many, many more species of moths than butterflies.  (All these things that you never knew were out there in the night.) Most moths are nocturnal, but there are a few that fly during the day.

Here are two examples of moths that fly during the day:
TOP:  Snowberry Clearwing moth (often called the Bumblebee moth)
BOTTOM:  Hummingbird Clearwing moth 
So what's the difference between a butterfly and a moth? 
Like previously mentioned, most moths are nocturnal.  And, unlike butterflies, most moths have thick and fuzzy bodies.  They also don't have little knobs at the end of their antennae like butterflies.

moth attracted to my porch light
Another difference is that butterflies usually rest with their wings held up above them, while moths rest with their wings spread out flat.

a resting moth
There are several other less noticeable differences.  An interesting one is that moths are the ones who make cocoons of silk - butterfly pupae have a hard, smooth skin called a chrysalis.

Are moths pests?
Moths are actually very beneficial.  They are important as pollinators, and they are a large part of the food chain.  Also it is the silk moth (Bombyx mori) that produces silk.  These creatures that are so rarely noticed do deserve a little love and respect!


Now moth caterpillarson the other hand, are a very different story as we gardeners know...

15 comments:

  1. Indie, it was interesting to know about moth and butterflies, the difference between them!

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    1. I realized I didn't even know the real difference between them before looking it up, so it was fascinating to learn about.

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  2. I never heard of National Moth Week. Do butterflies get a week too? When I was in Costa Rica, I found the moths really as pretty as the butterflies. There is so much variety.I really like those hummingbird moths. They have such an interesting flight pattern.

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    1. Some moths are really gorgeous. I usually just see plain brown ones around here, though! I haven't heard of a butterfly week, though I think there is a butterfly day in June that some museums will put on special butterfly-themed things for.

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  3. I didn't know about National Moth Week! I am learning to have a greater appreciation for moths. It got me thinking how we allow butterflies to eat away at host plants but remove the moth caterpillars from plants. Lately I have been allowing the moth caterpillars to stay on my plants since they only defoliate them and don't actually kill their host plants. Sometimes the caterpillars are much prettier than the moths they turn into.

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    1. It was really interesting to read about how many more moths than butterflies there are, and how they are important pollinators. Some flowers are mainly pollinated by just moths. Butterflies get more appreciation since they are so pretty and we see them in the day :)

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  4. Butterflies are pretty, moths are...uhmm...I must admit I don't find them pretty, some of them are even a bit creepy, but since they mostly are around at night they can have my garden to themselves - as long as there isn't too many of them (caterpillars I mean) :-) Interesting article!

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    1. Ha, I also find many of them creepy, especially when they keep bouncing around our porch lights! I do wish I could see more of the spectacular big moths, though, as opposed to the little brown ones.

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  5. I have some issues with moths that go back to childhood--weird stories that I'm not sure I can convey in a comment here. But they are fascinating creatures and I know they're valuable parts of the circle of life. One of my friends sent me a picture of a hummingbird moth the other day. Interesting creatures!

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    1. I remember being scared once as a kid seeing a huge moth attached to our glass door. It had these huge feathery antennae, and I thought it looked like an alien! Some of them do look quite bizarre!
      We get quite a few of those bumblebee moths here. I remember seeing them for the first time and thinking 'what in the world is THAT?!' They are rather pretty, though.

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  6. Wow! At last, someone wrote about moths, not butterflies! Thank you!

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    1. True - one doesn't often see posts on moths! They are a rather mysterious, lesser known group.

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  7. Fascinating! I have long loved moths as well as butterflies. Thanks for pointing out the differences. I see quite a few interesting moths around my garden, including the hummingbird moth and that crusader moth I mentioned in my last post.

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    1. That crusader moth was so interesting! It really does look like it's wearing a shield!

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  8. I have a post with some pics of a hummingbird clearwing moth. They're tough to get focused because they dart around so much.

    My wife calls them lobster bees but I think they look more like shrimp.

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