LONDONDERRY — When darkness falls over Town Common, locals can catch a sneak peak at Londonderry’s little known “night life.”
This is National Moth Week and for the second year in a row, Londonderry Conservation Commissioner Deb Lievens is encouraging her neighbors to join her on the Common tonight for an impromptu moth safari.
Setting up white sheets and lights along the Common and in the adjacent woods, Lievens hopes to share her love of the diverse and often misunderstood insects with residents of all ages. The free event begins at 8:30 p.m. and continues until around midnight, weather permitting.
Participants are asked to bring their own cameras and flashlights. During last year’s event a rainstorm put a damper on the moth viewing when the guests of honor failed to attend.
“Unfortunately, thunderstorms mean no moths,” Lievens said. “But hopefully the weather will cooperate this year.”
National Moth Week literally shines a much-needed spotlight on moths and their ecological significance, she said, noting the creatures can tell us a lot about our changing environment by their geographical and seasonal distribution.
Though not many moths were seen in Londonderry last year, the 2012 National Moth Week attracted participants in 49 U.S. states as well as 29 foreign countries.
There were moth events in urban settings like Manhattan as well as in more remote areas like Costa Rica and Kenya.
Event participants around the nation and globe are encouraged to do their part by helping to map out moth distributions in their area.Right now, Lievens is working on a project with both the Nature Center in New Jersey and the University of Georgia’s Discover Life program documenting and photographing the breeds of moths found in different regions each season.
“What we’re trying to find out is if the weather and climate changes are affecting the moths’ breeding cycles,” she said.
With hundreds of thousands of moth species native to the United States, many people don’t give the insects much thought or tend to look at the creatures with annoyance.
Lievens stressed that moths can be just as beautiful as their colorful cousins, the butterflies, and play an equally important role in the ecosystem.
“They’re just absolutely fascinating, beautiful creatures,” she said. “Hopefully this year’s event will encourage people to become active citizen scientists.”
An ideal night of moth viewing requires complete darkness and a relatively dry climate.
“The moths tend to come into the lighted area and then they settle right down,” Lievens said. “Once that happens, some of the species are pretty docile and can even be handled.”For more information contact Lievens at email@example.com or go to nationalmothweek.org.