Moth Week in the RGV 2022
Oops, I forgot to post this last year. Since I just led our TMN Training Class' Moth Field Trip last weekend, I guess now is a good time to finish and post it. I love mothing and talking about moths and other tiny creatures of the night (especially spiders).
I got to share my (limited) knowledge of moths with around 140 visitors at four nature parks for Moth Week last year. I don't know how many moths can be found in the Rio Grande Valley, but there are about 4,700 recognized species in Texas. I have seen about 10% of that and can remember far fewer. Luckily being an expert isn't required for educating people about moths. I share what I have learned from doing Citizen Science on iNaturalist and hanging out with more experienced moth-ers. The secret is, talk about the moths you know and general moth info. You don't need to identify them all to species. Even the best mothers can't do that. There is a cartoon by Rosemary Mosco that explains it well: many get described as "bird poop," "ooh, green," and "that one, you know, with the thing - arg, I forget the name."
My favorite Moth Week find was probably a Slug Caterpillar Moth, the Smaller Parasa Moth (Parasa chloris). It's Green! From the shape and coloration, I recognized the family even though I had never seen this species before. Sadly, it got away before I could share it with most of the group.
My experience at each park was very different. By far, the largest number of people and moths were at the first event at Quinta Mazatlan. Mothing at Estero Llano State Park a few days later seemed slower. For a good while, the moths that showed up mainly belonged to the genus, Toxonprucha. We still did pretty good, but as usual, after everyone left, several new species showed up. The next day at Bentsen, we had less total moths but we still got to show people a bunch of moths and insects. My last event was at Oleander Acres Butterfly Garden, we had far more lights setup around the garden than the previous locations, but it was windy that night so the main thing on our sheets were little planthoppers (mostly genus Melanoliarus).
After a couple of years of discussing our mothing by email, I finally got to moth in person with Anita at Estero. Anita said she noticed the first few days of the week having the most variety and numbers of moths as well. You never know when you are going to have a good moth night. At home I got only a few moths per night so it took me the whole week to add up to 40 species. Except for that windy night, each park had 40 to 50 species of moths even though the total number of moths were very different. In total, I observed around 122 moth species for the week. Counting all RGV moth observations on iNaturalist during the event, there were at least 213 species documented. Moths aren't as well documented as more popular diurnal species so there were likely some observations of species that haven't been officially described yet. Plus there are just too many moths and too few experts to ID them all.
This year, the 12th annual National Moth Week will take place July 22-30, 2023.