Introducing …

Introducing …

My newest picture book for readers 5-8 years old–plus all their friends & family–is coming from Charlesbridge in May 2022!*

Honeybee Rescue, filled with eye-popping images by Ellen Harasimowicz, tells the story of beekeeper John Connery and the colony of honeybees that moved out of his backyard hive box and into his ramshackle garage. With a New England winter on the horizon, these bees needed a new home. But how does one relocate 70,000 honeybees and their honeycomb hive? Enter Mr. Jon Nelson, bee rescuer. This is a backyard drama you don’t want to miss.

Think this is a book for you or your favorite kid readers? Or your neighbors who keep bees? Or your parents or cousins or dentist? Perhaps the local library or elementary school? Pre-order a copy now so you can put it in their hands as soon as it’s available. (Pre-ordering a new book is one of the most helpful things you can do for your favorite authors. Truly!)

* All fingers and toes crossed that worldwide shipping delays and supply chain issues don’t impact this release date. I’ll keep you posted.

** Can’t wait to learn more about honeybee rescue-ing? Check out this article I wrote about Jon Nelson and his work, published in the the online literary journal Multiplicity.

Writing and Teaching

Writing and Teaching

Do you know about Chalk + Ink, the podcast for writers who teach and teachers who write? If not, you should! Host Kate Narita, children’s book author and fourth grade teacher, has created a bright and thoughtful space for sharing and learning. I was honored at her invitation to share some of my thoughts and experiences. Want to listen in? Click here!

Fall Haiku

Fall Haiku

As some of you know, I’m into haiku. I love to read them, and I especially love the challenge of writing them. (It all started here.) So of course I’m thrilled to share the news that the recent issue of Farmer-ish, a journal that celebrates farming, growing, and the arts, contains a small collection of my poems. You can read them here, and explore the full Fall issue of the journal here.

Happy Reading! Happy Fall!

Mothing! And podcasting!

Mothing! And podcasting!

I was thrilled to join Jennifer Swanson and Jeff Gonyea on their delightfully curious new podcast, Solve it! For Kids. Our guiding question for the day was a favorite of mine: How Do You Meet the Moths in Your Neighborhood? I hope you’ll give this episode a listen, but don’t miss all the other great questions asked (and answered) on this show recently, including:

Where are the Aliens? (with Dr. Ryan Macdonald)

What Can Ancient Rhinos Tell Us About the Midwest? (with Dr. Alison Pearce Stevens)

How Do Super Stinky Plants Save Soil? (with Dr. Colleen Kelley)

and so many more!

Get Your Moth Ball Starter Pack!

Get Your Moth Ball Starter Pack!

Happy May Day! Happy May! Happy Moth-watching season!

I’m thrilled to announce that Charlesbridge Publishing and I have crafted a Moth Ball Starter Pack to help you and your family get to know the moths in your neighborhood. Contents of the prize box include a signed copy of You’re Invited to a Moth Ball, 25 bookmarks to give out at your moth ball, a beginner field guide to butterflies and moths, and … drum roll, please! … your very own insect collecting light. For a chance to win, click on over to the official Moth Ball Starter Pack Giveaway page and complete the form at the bottom of the screen.

(Please note: participants must reside in the continental United States.)

Good luck, friends!

Lights for your Moth Ball

Lights for Your Moth Ball

Humans have invented a dizzying variety of light sources and an equally head-spinning language to describe them. I’ll be honest, I find it all very confusing, even after five years of using lights to watch moths! The thing to remember is that any light bulb is capable of attracting moths on a warm summer night. But bulbs that produce light of specific wavelengths, generally those in the ultraviolet range, will attract the most.

Blacklight bulbs, available at almost any local hardware store, are inexpensive and easy to use. They’re also fun because their shine makes white objects glow dramatically; my younger moth watching friends, especially the ones wearing white shirts or socks or headbands, love this. In my experience, however, these blacklight bulbs are not very good at attracting moths. In fact, they’re not that much better than the regular white bulbs already in your porch light socket. When it comes to moths, ultraviolet light sources are truly the way to go.

In the world of bulbs, ultraviolet refers to wavelengths of light that fall between 400 and 10 nm. While light in these wavelengths is mostly invisible to human eyes, it can damage them if overexposed. Moth-watching revelers should never stare at their lights. Look at the moths instead! And if you’ve got really small children at your event, consider providing protective eyewear rated for UV light. (For example, these.)

Ultraviolet light sources come in an array of types, shapes, sizes and strengths, and they seem to have different names at different vendors. A good place to start your search is companies that cater to bug enthusiasts, like I bought their AC Night Collecting Light years ago; it’s a glass tube in a protective sheath that glows purple, includes light in the UV range, and plugs into a standard US light socket. The moths around me seem to like it a lot.

In my experience, however, mercury vapor lamps are the realest of the moth-friendly lighting deals. Professional entomologists and serious moth-watchers spend big money on mercury vapor lamp traps, but this sort of equipment is well beyond the needs of the casual backyard moth watcher. I get by with a mercury vapor bulb purchased at the local pet store, designed to provide basking heat for exotic pets. It’s very important that you have a lamp base that is designed to work with the bulb you select. Like other bulbs, mercury vapor bulbs come in a variety of wattages, and you must select a base that can support that wattage. I have a 160-watt Mercury Vapor Globe from Solar Brite (similar to this one), and I purchased a Porcelain Wire Lamp base from Exo Terra (similar to this one) that can support bulbs up to 250 watts. Conveniently, this wire lamp base has a clipping mechanism that lets me attach the base/bulb combination virtually anywhere, making light station set up easy and portable.

From what I’ve read, the amount of mercury in mercury vapor bulbs is on par with that found in energy efficient compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) and much less than that found in watch batteries, mercury thermometers, or even dental fillings. There is no danger of mercury exposure while using the bulb, unless it’s dropped and broken. Even then, manufacturers recommend the broken bulb be carefully cleaned up, secured in plastic, and disposed of in the regular trash. (If your town has the option, a hazardous waste facility would likely take it, too.) As with any of the equipment described here, read the packaging that comes with the product and follow the instructions carefully.

Which moths show up at your lights depends on the lights you choose, where you live, and what time of year it is. Most moths prefer warm weather, which is why summer is the best time for moth-watching. (That said, I found a moth—a half-wing (Phigalia titea)—at my lights in central Massachusetts on March 10 this year! It’s pictured above.) Surrounding habitat will impact the moths you see, too. If there are places near you where moths can thrive, chances are good that some of these moths will visit your light setup after dark.

If you are going to the trouble of sorting out a light source and staying up late to see who it attracts, you owe it to yourself to have a good field guide on hand.  I recommend David Beadle and Seabrooke Leckie’s Peterson Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012). Consider supporting local bookstores by purchasing it here. And here are a couple field guide options geared more toward children.

Connecting with other moth watchers is a great way to further your learning and get help with moth identification. There are moth groups on social media platforms (for example, the 13-thousand strong Facebook group called Mothing and Moth-watching; smaller regional groups exist in most places, too) and on the internet (for example, Moth Photographers Group housed at Mississippi State University); seek them out for advice and guidance.

Don’t forget that each July, moth enthusiasts worldwide celebrate Moth Week (July 18-26, 2020), making that a great time to find moth-watching events at nature centers near you. Visit the event website for details.