Photo: A hummingbird moth feeds on flowers in Massachusetts, United States. (Photo: Dwight Sipler/Wikimedia Commons)

Did you know it’s National Moth Week? Running from July 18 to 26, citizen scientists across Canada and the world are stepping out into nature and embracing their inner “moth”er by cataloguing the moth species in their own backyard (register a local event for free here). The submitted data and photos help paint a wider picture of global moth biodiversity.

This year the spotlight is on the sphingidae family of moths, which are found throughout the world; they’re often called hawk moths, sphinx moths and hornworms. North America is home to about 12,000 moth species.

How to participate
If you’ve ever sat on a porch on a summer night, you probably know that finding moths isn’t that tough. However, if you want to ensure you get the best data possible, you can increase your odds by using light and/or fermented sugar and ripe fruit to attract a group of flighty friends.

Any type of light will attract moths, even a flashlight. Although the professionals use black lights and mercury vapor lights, which emit light in a color spectrum that moths find irresistible. Give the moths a place to rest by hanging a white sheet over a clothes line or between two trees and shine the light on it. Wait.

To attract a moth by ‘sugaring,’ simply smear a mix of sugar, overripe fruit and beer (try this recipe) onto a tree trunk an hour before dusk. Check back every 30 minutes to see who’s come for dinner.

Finally, submit your photos and observations to any of these organizations.

Why study moths
Moths can be important bioindicators that can indicate the health of an ecosystem, according to National Moth Week. A greater diversity of moths typically means there is a greater diversity of plant species, which leads to a greater diversity of other species.