July 4th has come and gone, but there are still opportunities to celebrate this summer! Nine days this month - July 22 -30, 2017 - have been designated as National Moth Week. The event was started in 2011 by Friends of East Brunswick Environmental Commission in New Brunswick, New Jersey, as a way to encourage people to learn about moths and engage in citizen science observations.
According to the National Moth Week website, nationalmothweek.org, there are 150,000 to 500,000 moth species, worldwide. The website includes many interesting blog posts about moths worldwide, information on how to attract moths, and suggestions for being a citizen scientists.
In her 1910 publication, Moths of the Limberlost, Gene Stratton-Porter wrote detailed descriptions of thirteen types of moths she collected in the Limberlost. She also took photos of each type through their full life cycle and hand colored a photograph of each to include in her book. The Eacles Imperialis (Yellow Emperor) that features prominently in Stratton-Porter's 1909 novel The Girl of the Limberlost is one of the moths lighlighted. Moths of the Limberlost provides insights into Stratton-Porter's life at Limberlost Cabin and her nature study methods. Passionate about moths, she slept with cocoons near her pillow so as not to miss a moth emerging. She preferred to photograph moths and paint their colors as close to coming out of the cocoon as possible, as that was when the coloring on the wings was most vibrant. Some other moths included are Moths of the Moon (Actias Luna), The Pride of the Lilacs (Attacus Promethea), and King of the Hollyhocks (Protoparce Celeus).
Gene Stratton-Porter was curious about moths even as a little girl, convincing her family though her careful observations and curiosity that Deilephila Lineata, a moth commonly thought of as a bird and called the Lady Bird, was actually a moth. In her youth, she first saw a Cecropia, called the Robin Moth for it's distinctive reddish markings. It was years later when she saw that species again - on her own front porch of Limberlost Cabin in Geneva, Indiana.
In a bedroom in Limberlost Cabin, a collection case was set up on the mantle of a gas fireplace. That case is still there today and includes a variety of species, in addition to those featured in Moths of the Limberlost. The eighty-four specimens include monarchs, Eastern black swallowtails, luna moths, yellow emperor moths, and even a great spangled fritillary! There are also several dragonflies, another insect Stratton-Porter liked and photographed.
During a visit to the Limberlost State Historic site earlier this year, I took time to carefully observe the collection case. A chart provided to me by site staffers, and created years ago by an entomologist, identifies the contents of this unique "cabinet of curiosities." Some small paper identification tags remain attached by several specimens. The ink is faded, but it was possible to make out the date: 1906. For that instant, it was as though I'd traveled back in time. As Gene Stratton-Porter states in the beginning of Moths of the Limberlost: "To me the Limberlost is a word with which to conjure; a spot wherein to revel."
Happy National Moth Week!