Several years ago, I attended a lecture at my local Massachusetts Audubon sanctuary. It was given by local naturalist David Small, and his subject was moths. I was mesmerized by Dave’s presentation, and shocked at the incredible variety of moths he had recorded in his own backyard, a backyard that was less than an hour from my own. At the end of the lecture, Dave invited all of us in the room to attend his annual summer Moth Ball. And so that following June, I showed up at his house after the sun had gone down, with a flashlight, my phone camera, and a notebook. I was NOT disappointed. Dave’s large property was sprinkled with light stations, some near the house, others in the grassy yard, still others in the woods surrounding that lawn. Several dozen moth watchers showed up, and we spent many hours strolling from one lighting station to the next, checking out the incredible moths on the sheets, taking photographs, oohing and ahhing. The idea for this book was born that night.
For the next several summers, I set up light stations in my own yard, recording the moths that showed up. I tried a variety of lights, including my regular porch light bulbs, blacklight bulbs I bought at the hardware store, a UV light I purchased online, and a mercury vapor bulb I bought at my local pet store. (For more details on lighting your moth ball, read this blog post.) The results were magnificent, particularly with the mercury vapor bulb. I met so many moths I’d never known were my neighbors!
Lucky for me, photographer Ellen Harasimowicz was as fascinated as I was, and agreed to collaborate on a book about moth watching. She and I were thrilled with Karen Boss at Charlesbridge Publishing agreed to help us bring this book to young readers.
Books with Related Themes
If you plan to host or attend a moth ball, the most important books to have on hand are field guides to moths. Here are a few of my favorites:
- A PETERSON FIRST GUIDE TO BUTTERFLIES AND MOTHS, by Paul A. Opler (Houghton Mifflin, 1994) — This is a great little field guide for beginners!
- PETERSON FIELD GUIDE TO MOTHS OF NORTHEASTERN NORTH AMERICA, by David Beadle and Seabrooke Leckie (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012) — This is a great big field guide for serious moth watchers.
- MOTHS OF COSTA RICA’S RAINFOREST, by Armin Dett (Benteli, 2018) — Look in your local library for a copy of this gem, which will surprise you with stunning moths from central America
There are some great children’s books about moths, too. Here are a few I like:
- MOTH: AN EVOLUTION STORY, by Isabel Thomas and Daniel Egneus (Bloomsbury, 2019) — This lush picture book shares a classic story of natural selection, starring a species of moth known as Biston betularia, or the peppered moth.
- BUTTERFLIES AND MOTHS, by Nic Bishop (Scholastic, 2009) — This is a must-read-and- explore visual delight! (Which can be said of all Nic’s books, to be honest.)
- NIGHT FLIER, by Elizabeth Ring and Dwight Kuhn (Millbrook Press, 1994) — This oldie is worth finding, if you can. It’s a lavishly illustrated look at one boy’s experience with a cecropia moth.
Don’t miss National Moth Week! Each July, you can follow moth ball events around the country and even the world. Visit the official National Moth Week website for more information.
You can see highlights from my most recent mothing adventures on my Instagram page. Click through and look for the videos saved in my Favorites.
You can also view a gallery of stunning images that photographer Ellen Harasimowicz captured during the making of this book.