San Antonio will gain a greater understanding of moths this summer when the Alamo Brewery stages a family friendly evening of nighttime nature that will shine a much needed spotlight on the beauty, importance and diversity of moths, the underappreciated siblings of butterflies.
Malt, Hops, and Moths will take place at the downtown brewhouse, 9PM – Midnight, Thursday, July 23, 2015, and will benefit the Friends of San Antonio Natural Areas. Admission is FREE.
The fun, educational event coincides with the fourth annual National Moth Week 2015 July 18-26, a global citizen-science project that celebrates the beauty, incredible biodiversity and ecological importance of moths.
The three-hour nature night will occur outside the Brewery near the Hayes Street Bridge where a mercury vapor lamp and black light moth magnets will be set up to attract moths and other insects for close-up viewing, inspection and recording.
Would-be “moth-ers,” that is, folks interested in observing and enjoying the spectacle, can use their cell phones to snap “moth selfies” and help record data of observed species, then load them up to iNaturalist, a crowdsourced species identification cellphone app. Organizers plan to have moth host plants and caterpillars on hand, edible insect snacks, a slideshow and more.
Alamo Brewery will serve a special edition Sphinx Moth Amber Ale at the event in honor of National Moth Week’s featured moth this year, members of the Sphingidae family–hawk and sphinx moths. The beer will be used to make “moth bait” and participants will be invited to mix up the stinky brew—Alamo beer, overripe, mashed bananas, yeast and molasses–and smear it on nearby trees and structures with a paintbrush. (Sound like fun? Gloves provided.) The concoction is irresistible to moths.
“Moth night is a great way to get kids and adults engaged in nature,” said Daniel Large, a habitat conservation plan coordinator for the Edwards Aquifer Authority who co-organized the event in collaboration with local pollinator advocate Monika Maeckle and Trinity biology associate professor Dr. Kelly Lyons.
Large encouraged everyone to join the fun at the Brewery next month, but pointed out that anyone can stage a moth night in their backyard, the park or the neighborhood. “It’s amazing what you can find once you start looking–even if it’s just from the comfort of your own home. With moths and many other insects, just turn on a porch light at night and see what happens,” he said.
Dr. Lyons’ Trinity biology students will assist citizen scientists in identifying moth species and uploading the data to iNaturalist. “Crowdsourced data collection at events like Moth Night help us understand the greater ecosystem,” said Dr. Lyons.
Plus, it’s just fun to hang out in the dark, enjoy a beer and see what shows up.
Most people view moths as pests, even though only one group of the hundreds of thousands of species eats clothes. Scientists believe that somewhere between 160,000-500,000 species of moths exist.
Maeckle, who runs a website called the Texas Butterfly Ranch, said moths get a bad rap. “They’re as interesting as butterflies and provide free labor for the food chain,” she said, adding that while bees pollinate the malt that makes beer, “moths help make tequila happen.”
Moths serve as a primary protein source for bats, which pollinate the Agave cactus from which tequila is distilled. And the “worm” in the Mezcal bottle is actually the caterpillar of the Tequila Giant Skipper—which lies taxonomically between a moth and a butterfly.
San Antonio’s Malt, Hops and Moths Night joins hundreds of similar National Moth Week events around the world. Last year, more than 400 events took place in 50 states and 42 countries. To see the event roster, check out the map on the National Moth Week webpage.
Special thanks to our Malt, Hops and Moths Night sponsors: Alamo Brewery, The Arsenal Group, City of San Antonio, Friends of San Antonio Natural Areas, Texas Butterfly Ranch, Trinity University, and the Rivard Report. And: special thanks to Jeremy Karney of the MonksToolbox for developing our logo. GRACIAS!