Many parents will point out a colourful butterfly flitting past on its daily pollination rounds, but moths often fly by unnoticed. They are closely related, both from the order Lepidoptera, meaning ‘scaly wings’. Moths are generally considered plain Janes when compared to their more colourful cousins, but that isn’t always the case.
There are avid collectors who see the beauty in moths and capture, kill and pin moths to keep their everlasting bodies on show, though I’m certainly not suggesting you do this with your child. There are plenty of ways to observe moths up-close without harming them in any way. Some include:
It is well known that moths are attracted to light. If you leave an outdoor light on at night you should get quite a few moths hovering around it. A portable spotlight or a torch will allow you to study moths even more closely. Hanging a white sheet up with the light shining on it can sometimes make the light more inviting.
Many moth hunters have their own concoctions of sugary goodness to attract moths and the best part is that it’s easy to make one of your own. There’s a number of different recipes that can be found online. I’m going to perform a simple experiment with Miss Three in the next couple of weeks. We will let you know which recipe attracted the most moths. Why not conduct your own experiment?
A different sugaring method is to soak lengths of rope or chord in a cheap red wine and drape them around foliage in your backyard.
Don’t forget to use these wonderful suggestions from Butterfly Conservation if you decide to keep a moth for a little while.Moth Welfare • Avoid touching moths’ wings directly as you can easily damage them. • Put moths in dry clear plastic or glass containers for close inspection. • To dislodge moths into containers, give whatever they are resting on a sharp tap, or gently lift each moth from underneath onto a pencil. • Only put one moth into each container and check that it can move around freely. • If moths are very active in containers, put them in a fridge or cool box for a short time to calm them. • Moths can be kept for a day or two in a container in the fridge while you identify them. • Release moths out of the sight of birds in thick or long vegetation, ideally at dusk. • To avoid birds learning to come and eat moths where you have attracted or released them: • Check your trap or lighted area at dawn (or cover the trap with a sheet at dawn); • Discourage birds by using a plastic snake or owl; • Regularly change your moth release site. (Butterfly Conservation, July 18)
This great resource will help you tell a moth from a butterfly. If you would like to learn more about moths found specifically in Australia, here are two wonderful links that will help you look the expert when talking about moths with your child. Better yet, you and your child can research Moth species together!
I fear this little fellow ate quite a few of my moths. Naughty gecko!
Sometimes you can find a little beauty in places you didn’t expect and little dusty moths are no exception. Some may be beastly but they have an important role to play in nature and still make for a wonderful learning experience.