It was the moths that attracted the 30 or more humans to Mockingbird Nature Park on Wednesday night.
The Master Naturalist Indian Trail Chapter members showed local residence and those in attendance from several surrounding counties how to attract and identify some of the the approximately 500 species of the nocturnal insects that live in the Metroplex. They also pointed out the wide verity of other nocturnal insects that made an appearance around the ultraviolet lights set up around the entrance of the nature park, as well as recording a servery of the moth species present in the park.
“You can see just a glimmer of the sun going down, so the butterflies are going to sleep,” said Sam Kieschnick, a chapter member and urban wildlife biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife service as the gathered crowd waited for the first moth to appear. “The moths are waking up. There are more to moths than the three types, the brown ones, the gray ones and the black ones.”
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Moths spend most of their life in the caterpillar stage, he said, metamorphosing into wing creatures for a short time, some only a few days, to mate. And only a few species eat holes in clothing.
“Some moths species as adults don't even have working moth parts,” Kieschnick explained. “They spend a lot of time as caterpillars eating so as adults they don't have to.”
The insects are attracted to light because they followed the stars for navigation and because they can find other moths to mate within the circle of light, he said.
In the ecosystem, moths play a role as pollinators and a food source for many animals. Bats, birds, frogs and dragonflies are some of the common moth predictors, he said, and some species of baby humming birds require moth caterpillars for food until they are old enough to fly and drink from flowers.
“You can almost name any animal and they are connected to moths in some way,” Kieschnick said.
Wasps eat moth eggs, and even bears will eat the insects.
Some of the moths spotted at the park included a species that spins as it flies, and a leaf roller moth, named because it's caterpillar rolls up a tree leaf and lives inside, protected by the leaf it is eating. The brown and tan moth sports an intricate pattern of swerls and chips on its “V” shaped wings.
Of the more than 160,000 species of moth in the word, there is a huge range of diversity in appearance, habits and habitats, he explained.
“I challenge you to look up close and you will see something incredibly beautiful,” he said.
The Master Naturalists Indian Trail Chapter meets the fourth Monday of each month from January to November at 7 p.m. at the First United Mothodist Church located at 505 W. Marvin Ave. in Waxahachie. Certified Master Naturalitst complete 40 hours of classroom and field training, 40 hours of approved volunteer service and 8 hours of approved advanced training. More information about the chapter, membership and events can be found at www.txmn.org/indiantrail or by calling the Texas AgriLife extention office at 972-825-5175.
Contact Bethany Kurtz at 469-517-1450 or email email@example.com. Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BethanyKurtzMidloMirror or on Twitter @bethmidlomirror.