Happy Friday, insect lovers!!! We hope you’re having a great Friday. This week we wanted to show you what it is like to spend a night sitting around a “moth light”. We chose this week because the start of moth season is just about now in northern Illinois. And by a strange coincidence, the best tropical rainforest trip we ever had was also in June. Moth lighting can be a wonderful experience if you like close-up photography. On a good night, it’s easy to take several hundred pictures!!! Lucky for us, digital cameras make that much less costly than in the old days of film and developing. And even more exciting, you can immediately see the pictures you’ve taken, and take additional photos if the originals are not right. So today we’re going to show you some amazing sights that we’ve seen, and hopefully inspire you to try it yourself.
First of all, you’re probably asking yourself, “What the heck is a moth light?” Well in the simplest terms, night flying insects are attracted to lights. So you can find interesting insects anywhere that outdoor lights are left on all night, like rest stops, street lights, signs, etc. But most typical light bulbs don’t attract large quantities or large varieties of insects. That’s because night flying insects are mostly attracted to lights that have a high ultraviolet content. The most effective lamps are “black light” bulbs and “Mercury vapor” bulbs. We’ve all seen black lights. They’re the lights that make things “glow” in the dark, and they’re used in “bug-zappers”. Black lights do a very good job of attracting insects, but they don’t throw off much visible light. So if you want to take night time photos, you’ll need a camera with a good flash. We prefer Mercury vapor lights because they are high in both ultraviolet AND visible light. That means that you can usually take your photos without a flash, and you can also see the insects better to improve your focusing accuracy. Mercury vapor lights require more effort to use, because they require some auxiliary equipment that is inconvenient. And today it’s harder to get Mercury Vapor bulbs with the energy efficiency laws in America. But it’s very much worth the effort.
So enough about the hardware! The principle of a moth light is simple. Stand the lamp on a tripod, hang some white sheets behind it, and wait for the insects to fly in. You’ll see things in just a few minutes. And once you set up your light and sheets, the rest is effortless. It is so much more leisurely and less strenuous than trying to chase butterflies on a hot day. You just sit down on a comfortable chair, (with or without your favorite summer beverage), and wait for the insects to fly to you. With a good set-up, you can attract insects from a block away or more! The best thing is, once the insects fly in, they tend to land on or near the sheets. They’re attracted to the light, but because it’s so bright, they get disoriented. They usually land on the sheet and rest, just as they would during the daylight hours!!! That means you can get some spectacular close-up photographs. Today’s photos show a typical moth light set-up, some activity around the light, and some “sheet shots”. All of our photos were taken at our favorite nature reserve in Ecuador, a location that is famous for the quantity and diversity of species. On a typical night in the rainforest, you can easily attract a FEW HUNDRED different species of insects!!! But in many parts of the United States, you can see similar results. And you’ll be amazed at what you can find in your own back yard sometimes. Over the course of the summer, you can easily see over 100 species in your own yard!!! It helps if you have a camera that is good for close-ups. And you can also get some amazing video too!!! You’ll truly be fascinated at how colorful and beautiful some of these night-flying insects really are. And we’re sure you’ll be thrilled with your photos.
Although many of the framed specimens in our Wonders Of Nature department are raised on butterfly farms, some of the most unusual specimens are collected at moth lights. But you don’t have to worry about the wild insect populations. Only the most perfect specimens are used in our frames. And as you can see from our photos, the quantity of insects on any given night is staggering. You can’t put a dent in the wild population. More importantly, the local collectors who make their livings from the small quantity of insects they collect, have more than enough incentive to protect the rainforest. Saving the rainforest saves their livelihoods. And therefore, purchasing framed specimens from us helps protect the rainforest and ensures that these wonderful night-flying insects will be protected for many future generations. See you on the trail!
And don’t forget to visit the Friday Flyers archive on our website. You can now refer to all of the past editions complete with all the photos, in a stable and permanent format. We hope you’ll visit our website and check it out at:
We hope you enjoyed this week’s edition of Friday Flyers. We love sharing our interest in butterflies and insects with you. Please enjoy the photos we have posted with this week’s edition, and be sure to see all the previous pictures in our Friday Flyers album. Remember to “like” our Wonders Of Nature page, and be sure to pass it along to all your Facebook Friends. We hope you’ll visit our Wonders Of Nature department soon, and we look forward to seeing you.