Hiram College

Moth balls, insect sprays, shoes: All ways that folks use to defeat the flying, fluffy creatures called moths. But, why do people think these relatives of butterflies are so terrible?

Of course, some are poisonous … if eaten.

Other than nibbling on natural-fiber clothes or pantry items, moths are harmless. Most moths aren’t even pests to crops.

“Moth caterpillars and adults are an important food source for a wide variety of wildlife, including frogs, toads, lizards, shrews, bats, birds, spiders, and other insects. Some nestling birds require up to 35 billion caterpillars to successfully reach adulthood. Moths also provide humans a variety of services by being crop pollinators and indicators of environmental change, to name two of the most important,” says Jennifer Clark, PhD., associate professor of biology.

Dr. Clark and her student helpers Andrew Runyon ‘19, Kayla Cornett ’18, and Alyssa Roberts ’21 will showcase moths on Saturday, July 28 at 9 p.m. during Moth Night.

At the James H. Barrow Biological Field Station, down the path to the Observation Building, visitors will have the chance to become citizen scientists for a night. This means that citizens are helping collect data for scientific discoveries. By studying moths under the ambience of flashlights, participants will be adding to the National Moth Week surveys while they discover the beauty of moths. This event is free and open to the public with no registration required. Attendees are encouraged to bring flashlights and cameras to capture the moths both in the moment and as a memento of a magical night.

“We have a couple different lights next to sheets which are a great way to attract insects at night. Then, community members can look closely at different types of moths. Jen, (Professor Clark) will be going around and identifying the ones that she can and taking pictures of the ones that she can’t. There is a very large amount of moth species. Actually, moths are much more diverse than butterflies,” says Runyon of Powell, Ohio, a biology and environmental studies double major, who will be helping for a second year.

In fact, moth species number about 160,000 and counting.

“It’s a really cool time because you get to take really close looks at moths, which you don’t normally get to do. The ones at day are usually not as interesting. At night, you get to see how fascinating moth communities can be. It gets to be a whole lot of fun. And the whole nocturnal aspect of it gives you a real feel of adventure, despite the fact that you are just standing outside of the observation building with a bunch of sheets,” declares Runyon, who also is minoring in natural history.

Moth Night has brought the magic of moths to life for five years now at Hiram College. Rather than perceived as a violation of household cleanliness, moths can be best understood as a deeply integral and beautiful part of the ecosystems wildlife and humans share.