By Christine Bryant
Anyone who has ever turned on the porch light in summer knows what usually comes with it – moths.
There’s much more to the nocturnal creatures that find the light rays beaming from your front porch irresistible, however. In fact, moths are among the most diverse and successful organisms on Earth, and often indicate the health of the ecosystem.
That’s why, several nature enthusiasts across the country have collaborated and formed National Moth Week – an opportunity to celebrate the beauty, life cycles and habitats of moths. This year’s celebration will take place July 18-26.
Here in central Ohio, Battelle Darby Creek will mark the week with special activities, said Debbie Ruppersburg, a naturalist at the park.
Throughout the week, a display located in the front portion of the nature center will feature a moth collection owned by moth enthusiast Rich Paul.
Paul has cataloged hundreds of species of moths and will share a portion of his collection with the public during the week, Ruppersburg said.
“Moths are starting to get a lot more attention because there are moths out there that people don’t even know about yet,” she said. “It’s fascinating for those who like to learn about nature and photography. It’s definitely a growing trend.”
Scientists estimate there are at least 160,000 moth species – about 13,000 in the United States and 3,000 in Ohio, according to the state’s Department of Natural Resources.
“The display will feature the more common, beautiful ones people can see that are usually drawn to light,” Ruppersburg said.
The nature center also will host a special program at 9 p.m. July 25, that will introduce visitors to some of the most common moths found in central Ohio, their life cycles, habitats and how modern technology and humans can affect their population.
“If you spray chemicals, for example, you’re not going to have any insects, moths included,” Ruppersburg said. “Sometimes people don’t think of that.”
Moths also are often used as bioindicators – a species or taxon that tells scientists about the health of an ecosystem. According to the National Moth Week’s website, nationalmothweek.org, a greater diversity of moths typically means there is a greater diversity of plant species, which leads to a greater diversity of other species as well.
Moths also can help scientists monitor food plant populations and are important food sources for many nocturnal organisms found during the day and night. While many species of moths are typically found at night, some prefer daylight hours.
To catch a glimpse of moths found at night, organizers of the July 25 event will hang white sheets near stationed lights so that visitors can observe moths that call Battelle Darby Creek home, she said. No registration is required for the program.
The nature center is located at 1415 Darby Creek Drive, Galloway. For more information, call (614) 878-7106 or go to metroparks.net.