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Tell the Kids: There’s “Mothing” to do This Weekend

PHOTO: A backyard adventure is waiting this weekend, as National Moth Week wraps up. Montana kids are encouraged to spend time outdoors “mothing” – using lights at night to attract moths and count up how many they can find. A hawk moth is pictured. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith
PHOTO: A backyard adventure is waiting this weekend, as National Moth Week wraps up. Montana kids are encouraged to spend time outdoors “mothing” – using lights at night to attract moths and count up how many they can find. A hawk moth is pictured. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith
July 26, 2013

HELENA, Mont. – A backyard weekend adventure tip for children in Montana – there's "mothing" to do.

Sunday wraps up National Moth Week, and Xerces Society expert Matthew Shepherd says hunting for moths is a great family activity.

All it takes is a light and a sheet. Hang the sheet with the light behind it at night and wait for the moths to land, then count how many show up.

Or just count moths on the wall near a porch light.

Shepherd describes moths as under-appreciated – pointing out that their young are a cornerstone of the food web.

"Caterpillars are maybe one of the most important food sources for many, many birds,” he says. “Ninety percent of songbirds feed on caterpillars when they're young."

Moths also have a bad reputation because in some species, the caterpillars can devastate forests, landscape trees and even gardens, but Shepherd says most are not that harmful.

Tips on identifying moths in Montana can be found at PNWMoths.biol.wwu.edu.

So, what's the difference between a moth and a butterfly?

"There isn't a lot of difference between them,” Shepherd says. “Butterflies are considered the brightly-colored beautiful day-flying ones, and moths are considered to be the drably-colored night-flying ones."

Moths outnumber butterflies in North America – where about 1,000 butterfly species have been identified compared to 11,000 moth species.



Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT