Boiling Springs hosting Moth Night

·3 min read

Jul. 24—It's Moth Night at Boiling Springs State Park Saturday (July 24) evening from 9 p.m. through 1 a.m. Sunday morning.

This is an opportunity for area residents to watch scientific study in action, according to Tucker Heglin, Boiling Springs State Park Park manager.

"Moth Man" Zach DuFran will be setting up things to naturally attract moths and other night time invertebrates. He will be stationed at the pavilion south of the road, south of the playground on the end of Shaul Lake.

"Moth Week is an international effort to celebrate and observe moths where we live," DuFran, meteorologist and software developer at the National Weather Service's Radar Operations Center. "The Moth Night at Boiling Springs will be great for all ages."

No experience, sign up, or equipment is necessary to enjoy the study. Spectators can just stop by.

"My 9-year-old daughter loves coming to moth nights with me," DuFran said. "Moths are so interesting to watch and are not dangerous to touch or hold, so it is fun for kids to get to experience them."

With different kinds of lights pointed at white sheets hung up in the park, moths and other nocturnal insects will be drawn to the lights, landing on the sheets where they can be viewed easily, according to DuFran.

"There will be several knowledgeable volunteers present to identify moths and answer questions," DuFran explained. "We will also have an information table with field guides and some large moths to view."

Oklahoma has around 2,000 different species of moths in the state, according to DuFran.

"I would guess there are probably more than 600 species in Northwest Oklahoma, but there are relatively few observations in the area," DuFran said. "The more people start looking for moths in this part of the state, the more species we will find."

According to DuFran, the changing vegetation across Oklahoma results in different species in the various ecosystems.

"We see completely different species of moths in Northwest Oklahoma compared with southeast Oklahoma," DuFran shared. "Moths are incredibly diverse."

Ranging in size from a couple of millimeters up to 7 inch wingspans, moths range in color from drab browns and grays to vivid red, orange, green, purple, and blue, according to DuFran.

"Some even have huge elaborate antennae," DuFran said. "Many moths are cryptic, blending into their environment in such a way that they are almost impossible to see. Some moths blend in on flowers, some on dead leaves, some on tree bark, and some even mimic bird droppings to avoid being eaten."

According to DuFran, many species of moths have close relationships with their host plants, so a healthy diversity of plants means a healthy diversity of moths, too.

"Moths are a sort of keystone in many ecosystems and birds rely heavily on caterpillars in order to feed their babies each spring," DuFran said. "No caterpillars equals no baby birds."

Wool, or other fabrics, are only eaten by a couple species of moth caterpillars, according to DuFran.

"Most caterpillars eat living plants, although there are some that will eat lichens, fungi, or dead leaves," DuFran said. "So, while having holes in the leaves of your garden might be a nuisance to you, it does show that your plants are providing an ecoservice."

As adults, some moths are important pollinators, according to DuFran.

"Other species of moths eat a lot as caterpillars but lack mouth parts as adults," DuFran said. "They focus their time on finding a mate and passing their genes along to the next generation."

According to DuFran, "moth season" in Oklahoma ranges from April to September.

"July is primetime," DuFran said. "There are a few species that can be seen in the other months of the year, but far less than the warm part of the year."

For those interested, a moth coloring book is available to print from the website NationalMothWeek.org.

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