Moth / Biodiversity Nights

 

Io mothAn Io Moth Incredibly We Had 6 of  these Come Into The Light on a Moth Night in East Brunswick

 

Since 2005 the Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission has been holding Moth Nights once or twice a year to explore and spotlight the nocturnal and seldom seen life around us. We use two methods to see what is flying in our parks; an extremely bright 175 watt Entomology Mercury Vapor Light and a sweet fermented mixture painted on tree trunks ie. what has been called "sugaring" for hundreds of years. The Mercury Vapor Light gives off light in wavelengths that are very attractive to moths and other insects, and the sweet mixture does the same through smell. We hang the light in front of a sheet suspended between two trees so that any insects that fly in toward the light have a place to perch so we can examine them. The sweet mixture is simply painted on the trees with a paintbrush an hour or so before dark.

The best nights for "mothing" are in the summer on cloudy sultry nights with a chance of thunderstorms, but even mild late winter nights can be productive. Experiment, there is almost always something flying around...

                 


 

Dave's recipe for the sweet fermented mixture varies a little depending upon what I have at home but is essentially:

1 overripe banana or a can of peaches in heavy syrup (or both)
A few ounces of dark rum (tasted beforehand to insure freshness)

A bottle of dark beer (tasted beforehand to insure freshness) 

A box of dark brown sugar

Mash the banana and\or peaches so that they are in little pieces

Mix the remaining ingredients together with the mashed fruit (use a container with a large open mouth for ease of getting the paintbrush in and out)

Put a tight lid on and leave in the sun for a few hours to a day 

Paint a 1 foot square area on tree trunks about 3 or 4 feet off the ground, the more trees the better

Check the painted spot every half hour or so, approaching very slowly (many moths will be skittish) and using indirect light from a flashlight. (one note of caution - the mixture will be attractive to bees and wasps the next day)   

If you are taking pictures, shoot quickly and from as far away as possible and as many photos as you can, especially at the sugar bait (moths on the sheet are typically not as quick to fly). The flash and movements toward the tree are often enough to scare away any nectaring moths. However, they often come back quickly, so check frequently throughout the night.


 

Read this passage (click on the link below) from the great entomologist W. J Holland's groundbreaking 1903 book The Moth Book: A Popular Guide to a Knowledge of the Moths of North America. At the time and for nearly 75 years afterwords (and even to some extent today), it was the reference book on moths with color plates and natural history of thousands of species. His passage on the excitement of sugaring for moths is far better then anything I can write about why we do moth nights. I try to reread it each spring in anticipation of hot humid nights and sugaring!

  Read about Sugaring for moths from the book

 

 

While we take photographs on our moth nights, his collections were the basis for the plates in the book and for educating generations of entomologists and naturalists. But the thrill of the search on a sultry summer night is still the same. He describes the same excitement as we had on our last moth when a big underwing moth (the Catocala's he describes) alighted on the sugar. It is the moth in the two photos I posted on the moth page showing the bright red "underwings" where this large family of awesome moths derive their common name.      

 

See color plates from the book on bugguide.met

 

 

 

 

 

Moth Night at Davidson Mill Pond Park, July 23. 2016 8-11:30pm. Click here for more information

 Moth Nights 2012 September 7, 2012 - Butterfly Park , July 23, 2012 - Elk Pines Woods , July 27, 2012 - Frost Woods , June 2nd,2012  - Moth Night at Dallenbach Lak , May 10th,2012 - Moth Night with Seabrooke Leckie

 Moth Nights 2011  We had four Moth Nights in 2011, in three EB parks: Dallenbach, Frost and Kaystorn.

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