Well, Moth Week 2023 has come and gone. I have more or less resumed my life as a diurnal biped, and reduced my caffeine consumption by about 75%. It was a rather glorious 9 days, and there are many things I learned about moths and habitat, as well as some tactical errors I made that, at times, decreased my enjoyment of the adventures. There was a find of note, the first ever Orgyia vetusta (Western Tussock Moth) documented in the state of Washington, as well as the plebeian realization of how nearly ubiquitous (and yet wildly variable in coloration) Cosmia praeacuta is at this time of year. But my most enduring memory will no doubt be kneeling between the sheets, on that spectacular 7th Night of Moth Week, while dozens of moths swirled about my head, and dozens more perched and crawled on every available surface, and trying to grok in the fullness of the multiplicity of forms and colors and patterns that life, in the guises of moths, was displaying before me.
One thing that I will not do the next time I set out to celebrate Moth Week, is to set a numbers goal on it. I did manage to find my hundred species, and even accomplished it with one night to go, but I noticed both that it put an onus of failure on some nights that were only poor in terms of new species for that tally but were otherwise rich with bug life, and added some pressure to not miss any new species on other nights, and even slight disappointment when I realized that a particular moth wasn’t something new, but yet another variation of Hemeroplanis historialis or Cosmia praeacuta. You’d think that after 62 years on this planet I would have learned not to set personal goals about things I can’t control, but apparently I have not. Yet.
Another thing I would do differently is to go into training beforehand, so to speak. I purposefully avoided mothing in the weeks leading up to Moth Week, because I didn’t want to be burnt out when that time came, I didn’t want to burn out my readers on moths before we reached that celebration, and I utterly failed to realize how drastically my moth identification skill had eroded. Boning up on at least the most common moths flying in mid-summer would have saved me a few hours of work each day, would have alleviated some of the pressure of processing the previous night’s moths before getting a new batch, and would have made my photographing of moths at the lights more efficient.
I feel like I learned something about where to set up my lights in a given habitat. I had always placed my Temple of Ultraviolet Light in open areas, if they were available, under the assumption that I wanted it to be visible to the widest area possible. But now I think that finding spots that offer shelter from the wind might be even more important. There is also the fact that areas under a tree canopy don’t lose the day’s heat nearly as quickly as those in the open, and those along a watercourse lose that heat even more quickly.
I also think that next time, if I do any residential mothing, I would be more inclined to choose places with less light pollution. My dad’s house was the only residential or urban locale where I didn’t feel that there was a lot of competition from other light sources, and it was also by far the most productive of those locations. I’m also not sure I would confine myself to Clark County again, although if I thought ahead and got permission/access to some places in relatively wild areas in the middle of the county, that were also somewhat different habitat types, it could be productive and enlightening.
But, for the most part, these are all minor tweaks, and even if another Moth Week went exactly like this one did, I’d be happy to do it, because, overall, it was a ton’o’fun! There are probably other species of moths that I saw, and possibly even photographed, during the 9 days of Moth Week, but these 113 species in 16 families are the ones I can positively identify;
Raphia frater (The Brother)
Coelodasys unicornis (Unicorn Prominent)
Gluphisia sp., probably septentrionis