National Moth Week 2013

It’s almost time.

moth week

July 20th to 28th, 2013
National Moth Week Events in the US

“Citizen scientists around the world will be setting up white sheets and lights in backyards, woods and fields July 20 through July 28 for the second annual National Moth Week, a global science project begun last year to encourage the public to observe and document one of nature’s most diverse creatures…

Through partnerships with major online biological data depositories, National Moth Week
participants can help map moth distribution and provide needed information on other life history aspects around the globe.”

Moth week has many partner organizations that are repositories for data and photos about moths. These include Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA), and BugGuide, among many others. Last year, these partner organizations received more than 3,500 submissions as a result of National Moth Week Moth spottings! You can participate too–just take photos of the moths you see, and upload them to one of the partner organizations with location and other data.


You don’t have to identify your moths–they have experts that will help.  The photo you upload with your observations lets a specialist confirm ID. Then that information is used to compile species checklists, and distribution maps. And that data, over time, becomes an invaluable record of species distribution. Science!

What happens at a moth night? It’s a lot of fun!  Basically, you put up a sheet and a light with a bunch of your friends, and sit around and wait for moths.  So, yes, YOU can do science by sitting around on a beautiful summer night; alcoholic libations may be consumed (although whether or not it is an essential part of mothing varies, depending on who you talk to).

Tips on Mothing

World Moth Week Locations

Mad Hatterpillar: The Sequel!

Image Copyright Collin Hutton

The response to my post about the Mad Hatterpillar of Australia was amazing! Apparently animals that wear their former heads as hats are fascinating.

I mentioned that some North American caterpillars also build themselves hats out of discarded heads, and I’ve managed to find some cool photos of those as wel. Harrisimemna trisignata is a distant relative of the Australian species.

A commenter described it as “falling out of the ugly tree and hitting every branch on the way down.” That seems a little harsh, but I guess hatters gonna hat. It certainly is true that the zombie heads have a bit of a sinister look.

This caterpillar also has some strange behavior to go with its strange head capsule hoarding. The always awesome Weird Bug Lady is studying this species, and thinks it is a bird dropping mimic. Complete with chunks and white streaks mimicking uric acid in a bird flop. They also have some strange behavior:

“They shake! They shake when I open the container, when I breathe on them, when I talk to them, when I touch them, when I look at them the wrong way. I can just imagine a potential parasitoid, like a tiny wasp, trying to land on that caterpillar… between the shaking and the head capsule whipping, I doubt it would stick around.”

Here, have a look:

The caterpillars chew into wood to pupate (!), and they roll the wood up into neat little balls and then throw them (!!).  The adults of this moth look rather like they are carrying a QR code.

Many more cool photos of the caterpillar by Colin Hutton here.