Lately I find myself waking up tired in the morning. Actually, its not every morning. Its only mornings that follow nights where there was no rain, mild temperatures, no wind, high humidity and practically no moonlight. What does the weather and phase of the moon have to do with getting a good night's sleep you may ask? Moths of course. The largest numbers and greatest variety of moths are generally seen on mild rain free nights when it is especially dark. So come on over to the dark side. You may find yourself rewarded with late night gems such as the ones below that I photographed at Dorsey's Knob Park.
This spring I have been helping the WV Department of Natural Resources with their multi-year project to create an atlas of all of the butterfly and some of the moth species that are found in West Virginia. The surveying is being done on the county level by DNR staff as well as volunteers such as myself. The results of the surveys will ultimately be published by the DNR online. When complete, the project will provide valuable insight into the status and distribution of moths and butterflies in the state.
Why survey "all" of the butterfly species, but only "some" of the moths you be wondering? Well, mostly it is a matter of numbers. While only about 133 species of butterflies reside within the state of West Virginia, the number of moth species probably far exceeds a thousand! Nobody knows for sure. In fact, the number of moth species found at Dorsey's Knob Park alone might exceed a thousand.
My procedure for surveying moths is pretty simple. On warm nights I keep a close eye on the dusk to dawn lights at the Dorsey's Knob Lodge and at the Groscup Center. When a moth is attracted to the lights, I take a picture if it lands. Fortunately, flash photography doesn't seem to disturb them.
Below are just a few of the moths that I've seen at Dorsey's Knob during the month of April and first half of May.
Field Notes from Dorsey's Knob
Thoughts and observations on the natural history and current happenings at Dorsey's Knob Park.
About the Author
John Boback is a naturalist, historian, environmental educator and caretaker at Dorsey's Knob Park. He can often be seen around the park staring intently into the trees through binoculars or crouched down trying to photograph a wildflower or an interesting insect. If you see him, take a moment to say hello.