Bergenite Column: Moth Night Preview

IMG_2802Jim Wright, who keeps this blog for the N.J. Meadowlands Commission, also writes a twice-monthly nature column for the South Bergenite. His latest column is about Moth Night at DeKorte Park on July 21, and features an interview Liti Haramaty, co-founder of National Moth Week:

Liti on Knorr

Liti Haramaty, co-founder of National Moth Week.

How did the idea for NMW come up?
The idea came up from the success of local public moth nights in East Brunswick.  Guided by David Moskowitz with The Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission since 2005 we invited local residents to moth nights in our town’s parks. People were attracted to the light and sheet setup like moth to a flame. There were families, naturalists and birders, photographers and neighbors.

Seeing that many people are interested in night time nature we thought we should get more people involved in more places.  Dave and I are both members of a Facebook group of moth’ers and we had a conversation with other group members to test the idea of having moth nights at the same time in different locations. Everyone loved it – and so in fall of 2012 National Moth Week was born.DSCN0131
Does it get overwhelming?
Yes! The first year I created a website and an online registration system, not really understanding what I am getting myself into. We had so many registrations that Google blocked us from adding markers to the map and a second map had to be created. We did not expect the project to grow so big so fast and there were many issues to deal with. We answered hundreds of emails, continued the conversation on the Facebook page with experienced moth’ers, and met, in person and over the internet, many wonderful supporters and made new friends who helped with the project.

What’s been the biggest surprise?
How a crazy idea of two friends from New Jersey grew so fast to be a global citizen science project.

How big is the DeKorte Park event?
The DeKorte Park event is the biggest event that I have been to.  There were about 100 in each of the two events in the park and everyone had a good time.

Does anything make it special?
The people and the location, this is the only place one can go mothing with NYC and the NJ Turnpike in the background.  But what really makes it special are the people – I met families with kids who came to moth night after attending other activities in the park. the kids are always helpful with sugaring the trees, they just love painting with a sugary sticky mix of rotten fruit and sugar.  I also met senior citizens who came to see what it is all about and avid birders who decided to try mothing.

How knowledgeable are the folks here?
Many people come ready with guide books.  And then they identify moths without having to look in the book…

Is it still an uphill battle to convince most folks that moths are cool?Yes.  But I hope it is changing. People don’t like bugs, moth included, but they love butterflies. I show them a picture of the Io moth, which is on NMW logo, a large bright yellow silkmoth with eye pattern on the wings, and they think it’s a butterfly because they think of moth as small, brown and boring looking. Seeing that they can be beautiful gets people interested in moths.  I like to point out that some of the beautiful butterflies in paintings and decorations are actually moths…

I also like to tell people that there are many more moth species than butterflies and that they are an important part of the ecosystem, not only as pests, but also as bird and bat food and as pollinators. When talking about NMW I explain that there are many species that have not been discovered yet, and that even someone who is not a scientist can discover new species and contribute to our knowledge of species distribution.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Mothing is the new birding.





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