Elizabeth Willenbrink

Happy Moth Week!

Moths are something you probably don’t think of often. When you read the word moth, you probably think of a boring white or grey bug that swarms around lights, but there is much more to moths than you think!

Moths are closely related to butterflies with two main differences. First, most moths are nocturnal and are mostly active in the nighttime. Second, moths have fuzzy antenna, while butterflies have thin antenna with balls at the end. Most moths have very short lifespans lasting between one week to one month.

One common misconception about moths is that they are boring or bland colors. While the most common moths may be different shades of white, grey, and brown, Kentucky has many fantastically colored and patterned moths that rival the beauty of a butterfly.

For example, this Io Moth was found in Beckley Creek Park near the Osage Orange Trail. Its showy orange color and eye-like pattern helps the moth fend off predators!

This Luna Moth was spotted at the Parklands Administration Building in Pope Lick Park. Its bright green color and iconic wing-tails make it one of the most striking moths to spot in Kentucky. The wing-tails are thought to confuse a bat’s echolocation, keeping the Luna moth safe from the predator.

Lastly, this Giant Leopard Moth was spotted near the PNC Achievement Center. While smaller than the Luna and Io moths, the spots on this moth are striking and are likely an adaptation to confuse potential predators. This moth’s larvae are the wooly caterpillars you see crossing the Louisville Loop, which are often evoked in Kentucky folklore as indicators of temperature and seasonality.

The best way to spot moths of all types is to wait until dark and observe the insects that are attracted to an artificial light, such as a porch light. While their attraction to light is unknown, you can observe a vast number of moth species this way! Finally, don’t forget the importance of moths to the Kentucky natural habitat. These winged creatures feed on flower nectar and in turn spread flower pollen, allowing for booming wildflowers throughout the spring and summer!