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Seven Backyards
Moths...Moths...Moths...and their Habitats...and other stuff....
Several Long-Term Backyard
Studies in the U.S. and Australia

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Prime Time = Full-Moon-Plus-Ten
Full Moon How many times have you been told (by experienced elder “moth-ers”) to be sure to plan your next moth collecting trip for “the dark of the moon” (or, at least to aim for the latter half of the lunar cycle - that which precedes and/or includes the next new moon)?? And, how often have you read, in ecotourism travel brochures targeted at lepidopterists, that “Our next expedition to - - - (some species-rich tropical destination) is planned for the dark-of-the-moon”??....

Before going any further with this, I hasten to add that, yes, there can be excellent “moth-nights” at ANY time of a given month OR phase of the moon, particularly when conditions (such as mild or warm temps., cloud cover or fog, lack of wind) favor peak moth activity. HOWEVER, what I am leading up to here (based on nearly 6 decades of almost constantly observing and collecting moths, in both the U.S. and Australia) is that, in general, the really ideal segment of the lunar cycle, for encountering the most moths in the best (freshest) condition, is explicitly during that one-third of the cycle which falls immediately after the FULL MOON, and extends ONLY for about 10 days thereafter. The further you get beyond that (approximate) 10-day time-slot, the poorer will be the quality of the (majority of) specimens, and the lower will be the total numbers coming to lights! This is no “hard-&-fast” rule or formula, and I have no “research” (or equations, charts or graphs) to back it up - only a lifetime of continuous observations, and a tendency to question anything that is reflexively spouted by everyone like a sacred mantra!

I have been noticing this general pattern since the 1960's - 70's (in Australia), and since 1979 to the present date in the southwestern U.S.A. - primarily in SE. ARIZONA. Prior to the 1960's (see Backyard No.1, Beverly Hills), I was dutifully fixated on “The Mantra”, exactly as it was fed to ALL beginning moth-ers at that time; I had no reason to question this conventional “wisdom” that had been implanted in my brain, and I often repeated it to others....However, during my early years in South Australia (1965-1970), it began to slowly percolate through to my consciousness that, perhaps, this Mantra was not all that infallible!....The more closely I began to question it (based directly upon impartially observing what was - or was NOT - coming to my uv. lights every night), the more The Mantra began to degrade....

Both in SE. Australia and here (SW. U.S.A.), I was constantly noticing that, in nearly every month of the year (all seasons), the “best” collecting (max. numbers and freshest specimens) typically fell just after the FULL MOON, thence extending only for the next (+) 10 days or so and gradually diminishing thereafter. And furthermore, the latter half of the “dark-of-the-moon”, which extends from about the second week after the full moon up to the next full moon, becomes worse and worse the FURTHER you get into it: fewer moths, and the majority are “worn” (or tending that way)!

Any mention of this heretical observation to fellow moth-ers has (almost invariably) produced merely a blank, bemused, or “tolerant” (glazed-over) look in the listener; rarely is there any desire to hear more! And then, the next time they come for a visit (to collect moths), sure 'nuf, its well into the “dark-of-the-moon” (AGAIN!) when they arrive - and sure 'nuf, I find myself (AGAIN!) repeating my standard default-mantra: “You shoulda been here LAST week!”....(by way of “apologizing” for the thin pickings and numerous “dregs”, with which they are AGAIN confronted)....But, at that point, I have learned that it's futile to waste further energy repeating (and trying to explain) MY “Full-moon + 10" story, as I know from experience that it is most likely to fall upon deaf ears - and will only increase my (already) well-established reputation as “The Eccentric”!! [ref. - Erick Greene & Co., + 1989-1995]. Sometime (when none of your colleagues are watching), permit yourself to notice exactly when your very “best” collecting (freshest specimens and maximum numbers) is occurring, within the complete lunar cycle. And then, continue with those observations for another year or two, and see if “The Mantra” gradually begins to shift or alter??

What is going on here? There appears to be a definite monthly rhythm or pattern of emergences, tied to the lunar cycle, peaking around and just after the full moon (“FULL MOON + 10")....This has proven to be the case in all localities on the planet where I have collected, over the last half century, and it probably applies worldwide(?) It is very apparent (to me, at least!), just from casual observation, but of course it would be worthy of more detailed study and quantification, by anyone so inclined. (For all I know, a publication may already exist that describes or documents the phenomenon??) I would be interested to have more feedback, from observant and open-minded others, on any aspect of this topic!....

SUGGESTION: Next time you are traveling to some "destination" specifically to collect moths, please be alert for that hated standard refrain from the locals, "Ya shoulda' been here last week (or, 2 weeks ago); they were swarming then!!" .... If this is what you hear, then count back the indicated number of days, and make a mental note of where (in the cycle of moon phases) that "date-of-swarming" would have landed you, relative to the last FULL MOON....
Seven Backyards



Moths and Memories


Where Are the Specimens Now?


Background and Introduction


About The Backyard Concept

Motivations: Why Publish This Material?

Summarizing How These Projects Evolved

About the Photographs

Bias in Photo Representation

Moth Identifications

Taxonomy & Classification (the names)

About Moth Families & Subfamilies

Some Thoughts About Moth Surveys

Abundance Ratings Defined (8 Categories)

About the Flight Periods

Interpretation of the Flight-Phenograms

Miscellaneous Comments on Black Lights

Peculiarities of Moth Activity

Prime Time = Full-Moon-Plus-Ten

How To Obtain Perfect (Moth) Specimens

To Kill Or Not To Kill??

Beating or Sweeping for Larvae


Miscellaneous Tidbits Dept.