On Friday the 13th 2018 Bartram’s held a moth observation party at the garden. We hung a sheet on a line between two Chestnut Oaks in the lower garden and reflected blue light onto it to attract night-active insects. We also set up sugar traps, meaning we painted patches of sweet syrup onto trees in the garden. Insects were drawn to these patches and hung out on them, transfixed most of the night. This made it easy for us to observe and photograph a lot of pretty obscure life forms! Many of these life forms are little seen by humans – first, because they are nocturnal, and many are also cryptic with highly adept camouflage.
So why on Earth are we interested in looking at moths? Moths are bioindicators, meaning that they tell us about the diversity and health of the plants in the area which they eat as caterpillars and some of them pollinate as adults. There are many animals that eat moths and caterpillars too. So they tell us about the health of our local ecosystem. Moths are still little known to scientists because of their nocturnal lives. We will help by submitting the list of species we saw to http://nationalmothweek.org/ to be part of a worldwide body of people accumulating new data about these species so we can better understand how to repair and tend the fragile web of life that enfolds us all.
Another great reason to study moths is that they are shockingly diverse and beautiful in their various forms and they have really funny and colorful names. They will inspire your creativity!
Check out the slideshow!
To download the PDF directly, click here.
Entomologist Dr. Kenneth Frank stopped by our moth night as he always does and brought his camera. He created this slideshow of intricately detailed photos of insects at our traps. If you enjoy the slideshow, you might want to check out his book, Ecology of Center City Philadelphia, which you can download for free here.