Category: moths (Page 1 of 29)

Bug of the Week: Moth Extravaganza

Bug of the Week has been re-booted by some recent rains here in Arizona. I’ve been getting notifications of insects that I haven’t seen for a long time. It’s so exciting!

Erinnyis ello caterpillar

Photograph by Peg Lynck, used with permission.

Take for instance this caterpillar a friend found on what she called a pencil cactus, Euphorbia sp.

Photograph by Peg Lynck, used with permission

Here are two more.

See those tiny, stubby horns at the back of the abdomen? That means they are members of the hornworm or sphinx moth family. A little research shows they are ello sphinx (Erinnyis ello) caterpillars.

Ello sphinx caterpillars vary quite a bit in color. Some are green, or a mix of green and brownish-gray.

Public domain image from Wikimedia

The adult moths are known for their lovely burnt orange underwings.

Here’s another moth that has been spotted a lot this summer.

Photograph by Peg Lynck, used with permission.

Given the memorable common name of black witch moth (Ascalapha odorata),the species is found in the southern United States through Central America and into South America. Flying at night, these relatively large moths can resemble bats. During the day they rest on the walls of houses.

The caterpillars feed on various legumes, including Acacia sp., Senna sp. and mesquites.

White-lined sphinx moths are also active now. They can be active during the day as well as at night.

It is wonderful to watch nature rebound after last year’s extreme heat and drought.

What moths are you seeing right now?

Yarn Doll Moth STEAM Craft for #NationalMothWeek

For National Moth Week, let’s make a yarn doll moth STEAM craft.

Why study moths?

As National Moth Week hosts say in their press release,

  • Part of the Lepidoptera order of insects, moths are among the most diverse and successful organisms on earth.
  • Moths are important pollinators for crops and flowers, and serve as a food source for birds, bats and other animals.
  • Scientists estimate there are 150,000 to as many as 500,000 moth species.
  • Their colors and patterns are either dazzling or so cryptic that they define camouflage. Shapes and sizes span the gamut from as small as a pinhead to as large as an adult’s hand.
  • Most moths are nocturnal, and need to be sought at night to be seen – others fly like butterflies during the day.
  • Finding moths can be as simple as leaving a porch light on and checking it after dark. Serious moth aficionados use special lights and baits to attract them (see our previous post).

Building a moth model not only helps develop both science and art skills — like observation skills — but also fine motor skills necessary for many adult careers.

Yarn Doll Moth STEAM Activity

For the fuzzy body of our model, we’ll use the popular yarn doll technique which entails wrapping yarn around a piece of cardboard.

Typical Yarn Dolls

Gather:

  • Yarn
  • Ruler
  • Index card, 5 1/2 inch long piece of cardboard or file folder (to wrap yarn around)
  • Age-appropriate scissors
  • Card stock or file folders for wings
  • Colored paper for wings (optional)
  • Crayons, markers, or colored pencils to decorate wings
  • Glue stick (to glue colored paper to file folder- optional)
  • Chenille or fuzzy stems
  • Images of moths (hummingbird moths and luna moths if you use the patterns provided)

Instructions:

1. If not using an index card to wrap the yarn around, cut a piece of cardboard or card stock about 5 1/2 inches long by 2 1/2 inches wide (approximately). Cut a narrow slit to tuck the loose end of the yarn in while winding or pin the loose end in place with holding hand while winding.

Slit in card holds the beginning strand

2. Gently wrap the yarn around the center of the card the long way about 25 to 30 times, depending on the thickness of the yarn. The yarn should be snug, but not so tight that it bends the card. Keep the tension as even as possible so all the wraps are the same length. When finished, cut the yarn at the end where started wrapping. Tie the first end to the newly cut end to secure them both together (wouldn’t need to tie the ends if making a yarn doll).

4.  Cut 4 pieces of yarn about 5 inches long to serve as ties to secure the body of the moth. Prior to removing the yarn from the cardboard, slip one of the ties through on the upper edge of the card until there is roughly the same amount of tie on either side of the wrapped yarn. Tie the ends together snugly around the wrapped yarn with a square knot. Then slip a second tie through at the bottom and tie the bottom wraps together.  Tidy the loose ends of the knots by snipping them off now or later when all the ties have been made.

5. Slide the bundle of wrapped yarn to one side to remove it from the cardboard or index card.

6. Tie the third tie about 1 inch from the top of the bundle, creating the moth’s head.

7. Now it is time to make the wings. Decide whether you want to use a plain manila file folder like this hummingbird moth,

Hummingbird moth (also called hawk or sphinx moth)

card stock, or glue colored paper to a file folder (luna moth example).

8. Fold the paper in half and draw one set of wings on it, freehand or using the one of the patterns we provide here:

moth-wing-pattern PDF to download

Place the pattern at the fold where indicated. The narrow bridge that goes to the edge of the folded page will attach the two wings inside the yard body.

9. Cut out the wings. Unfold.

Color the wings now or after assembly. Check images of actual moths for inspiration. Remember that moths often have eye spots on the hind wings.

10. Curl one set of wings slightly and pass through the gap in the yarn body, the fore wings should be toward the head.

11. Tie the last tie around the yarn body behind the wings, to create the moth’s thorax.

12. Cut three chenille stems 8 inches in length to be the legs. Feed them through the yarn thorax on the underside of the wings.

13. Leave the legs free or twist each one around itself to secure it.

4. Add chenille antennae and any other details, such as google eyes (optional).  Tidy the loose ends of the knots by snipping them close.

15. Proudly display your moth.

Use the picture book How to Build an Insect by Roberta Gibson and illustrated by Anne Lambelet to accompany this activity.

Disclosure: The book is my personal copy. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Celebrate #NationalMothWeek

Oh my! National Moth Week is celebrating its 10 year anniversary this year — July 17 through 25, 2021 — with a call to young people around the world to learn about and observe moths in their local habitats.

This year we have the perfect picture book to read for National Moth Week: You’re Invited to a Moth Ball: A Nighttime Insect Celebration by Loree Burns and photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz.

What is a moth ball? It is a nighttime party to attract moths to your yard. Learn how to make a moth bait that will attract  buggy guests (recipe included). Or you can entice moths by hanging a sheet over a line with a light shining through (instructions included). Then wait for the guests to arrive!

The book is illustrated with lovely photographs taken at an actual moth party. They look like so much fun.

The back matter includes a photographer’s note with details about how Ellen Harasimowicz took the photographs at night (see her stunning portfolio), as well as an author’s note.

This book is absolutely lovely and inspiring, but I do have a caveat. The book shows great results attracting moths, but that might not be possible in every neighborhood and in every season. Research when moths are active in your area. Look for sites where it is safe to be out at night and also where there are enough trees and bushes to be food for moth caterpillars. If you’ve never done this before, you might want to check the National Moth Week events map and attend local events hosted by experts and hobbyists for best results. We’d love to hear from you if you do.

You’re Invited to a Moth Ball is a call to explore the moths that are at home in your neighborhood. It is perfect for budding entomologists and nature lovers. Investigate a copy today!

Related:

The Caterpillar Lab has a wealth of moth and butterfly images and information, such as their caterpillar guides.  They regularly post on Facebook Instagram and YouTube:

Try some of our Moth Blog Posts at Growing With Science:

See our growing list of children’s books about moths and butterflies at Science Books for Kids.

Reading age ‏ : ‎ 5 – 8 years
Publisher ‏ : ‎ Charlesbridge; Illustrated edition (April 7, 2020)
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1580896863
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1580896863

Disclosure: The book is my personal copy. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

 

« Older posts