A new appreciation for moths

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My dog loves the moths in my yard. Specifically, she loves to eat them. We discovered this because my dog is also afraid of the dark. Consequently, we leave the back porch light on at night so she will go do her business outside, rather than on our living room floor. While she is outside, she likes to chow down on the big moths and June bugs attracted to the porch light. She has helped me develop a new appreciation for moths.

It used to be that I ignored moths, or most of them, anyway. I always enjoyed the sphinx moths that would visit my 4-o’clocks in the evening and the snowberry clearwings that would visit various flowers during the day. But most moths were things you didn’t want in your house because they would eat your grandmother’s Persian rug or your expensive wool suit hanging in the closet. Or, they might dive bomb you as you tried to get into your door at night if you left the outside light on.

Snowberry Clearwing moth

Snowberry Clearwing Moth

But my attitude is changing. Perhaps it’s sympathy for the hapless creatures being gobbled up, or maybe it’s curiosity about the occasional colorful wing left behind on the deck in the morning. It could be I just want to be able to name my dog’s culinary delights. Whatever the reason, I’ve started trying to identify them.

Yellow-Collared Scape Moth

It’s not an easy task. There are thousands of species of moth. Thousands! There are slug moths and flannel moths (are my pajamas safe?), and waves, and owlets, and my favorites, the bird-dropping moths (so named because they disguise themselves as bird poop), just to name a few. Many have odd names like “The Cobbler” or the “Friendly Probole.” (Clearly, the lepidopterist who named The Cobbler was not a grammar aficionado, or he/she would have realized the awkwardness of saying, “I just saw a The Cobbler moth.”) (If I got to name a wool-eating moth, I would call it “Grandma’s Expensive Carpet Eater.”)

What I have discovered in my efforts to identify them is this: moths are beautiful. Their patterns are often intricate and subtle. Their shapes are diverse, and their colors are sometimes spectacular. Their size can be astounding. Who can forget seeing their first Luna moth? Tiger moths are so striking, with brilliant, contrasting colors and patterns. Io moths have giant eyes they flash at you if startled. Even the small ones with geometric patterns… I just love looking at them.

Tiger Moth

Io moth

Io Moth with eyes partly showing

The diversity in my tiny slice of the world is truly astounding. Next time you see a moth fluttering around a light at night, I encourage you to take a closer look at it. Appreciate it. And maybe stop your dog from eating it.

Bilobed looper moth

Bilobed Looper Moth

Meet Leslie Miller

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