Sunday, June 16, 2013

Mothapalooza - it worked!

A group of moth'ers inspects the bounty at a light sheet deep in Shawnee State Forest, around midnight last night. The sheet was covered with myriad moths of many different species.

The landmark Mothapalooza event took place over the weekend, and what an event it turned out to be! Approximately 150 moth (and nature) enthusiasts converged on Shawnee State Park in southern Ohio for an action-packed and probably unprecedented mothing event, at least in terms of size and scale. People from ten or twelve states - as far as Nebraska, Connecticut, and Florida - and Canada made the scene, and saw lots of cool stuff.

When we hatched this idea last year, we had no idea so many people would be interested. But we're glad that they were, and I think that everyone had a really great time. The hours were certainly odd - the primary field trips were nocturnal, of course, and departed at 9:15 pm. Some groups did not return until 2 am or thereabouts!

The Mothapalooza team deployed mothing stations far and wide, both at Shawnee State Park and forest, and at the Edge of Appalachia Preserve in neighboring Adams County. We knew the moths wouldn't let us down, and they didn't. The various light trap stations attracted blizzards of moths of scores of species, including jaw-droppers such as this Giant Leopard Moth, Hypercompe scribonia.

The attendees were divvied up into groups, and shuttled to the various stations. For many, it was their first up and close encounter with bizarre, cool, and interesting species, including this Black-waved Flannel Moth, Lagoa crispata.

Eight-year-old Isabella was enchanted with moths, and we had to drag her away from the sheets as midnight ticked past, and the adults grew weary. Here, she models three gorgeous species (L to R): Anna Tiger Moth, Grammia anna, the aforementioned Giant Leopard Moth, and an Io Moth, Automeris io.

There were diurnal field trips too, and here Dr. David Wagner kneels to show this group some sort of interesting butterfly. This group tallied 39 species of butterflies on our four hour foray, and a lot of other biota such as rare plants, birds, and non-Lepidopteran insects.

Dave Wagner was a pivotal force in the spawning of Mothapalooza. He, John Howard (second from left, in green shirt), and your narrator essentially hatched the idea while doing field work in southern Ohio last year. We needed someone smart, capable, good with people, and incredibly organized to oversee the show, and found such a person in Mary Ann Barnett, who is at the far left in the photo. She did an awesome job with scads of details and the weirdness that comes with organizing a giant moth conference. It wouldn't have happened without her!

This photo says it all. One of our participants, Melissa, had never seen a real live Luna Moth, Actias luna, and it was Numero Uno on her wish list. Well, not only did she see a Luna, she got to hold one! Only minutes after this experience, we found yet another, and those two were only a small chunk of the total Luna tally.

There are lots of people who deserve great thanks for helping to make Mothapalooza possible, and for contributing to its success. I want to share some more about this event and the folks who were there, but with only about eight hours of sleep over the past three days, additional Mothapalooza posts will have to wait.

Thanks to everyone who came out, and we have already discussed the possibility of Mothapalooza II!


Elena Tartaglia said...

Looks like your event was awesome! I especially love Melissa and the Luna moth. Everyone should make that face while mothing!

gregorgreg said...

ive seen a lot of those moths here in florida.