Some moths mimic stinging insects. The American hornet moth and European hornet moth fly by day and are marked by bold yellow and black bands.
Other moths commonly seen in gardens mimic hummingbirds. Hummingbird and snowberry clearwings unfurl a long proboscis to sip nectar while hovering at flowers. These moths are less than half the size of hummingbirds, but they behave just like hummingbirds. But when you see two antennae, you'll know the critter is an insect.
And some moths rival butterflies in terms of sheer beauty. Lunas, cecropias, imperial moths, regal moths, and rosy maple moths are simply stunning.
Though the publication of this new field guide rekindled my interest in moths, it was meeting co-author Seabrooke Leckie that really hooked me. Leckie attended the recent New River Birding and Nature Festival in Southern West Virginia. Her responsibilities included conducting several evening moth trapping events. Each was well attended, and Leckie demonstrated how to attract moths using lights and white bed sheets.
It proved easy to attract moths for everyone to see, but it's important to remember that each species "calls" (communicates chemically via pheromones) at a different time of night. "You can't expect to see all an area's moths in just a few hours," Leckie explained. "Some species call in the middle of the night, so all-nighter are required to attract the greatest number of species."
Though most of the "Peterson Field Guide to Moths" is devote to individual species accounts, several pages explain in detail how to use lights, sugar baits, and white cotton sheets to attract and capture moths. I've already spent several nights mothing, and I've discovered that attracting moths is relatively easy. Identifying them, however, can be difficult.
If you're intrigued by the moths that gather by the porch light, pick up a copy of "Moths." You probably won't be able to identify every moth you find, but you and some lucky children can enjoy a new type of summer night time fun.
Send questions and comments to Dr. Scott Shalaway, 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, West Virginia 26033 or by email via my website, http://scottshalaway.googlepages.com