Celebrate National Moth Week (July 23-29) by becoming a moth'er and joining a group staring at a strung-up white sheet lighted by a lamp.

Moths will be attracted to the bright surface, especially if it is illuminated with either mercury-vapor or ultraviolet light. When the nocturnal insects land on the fabric, citizen-scientist moth'ers will count and identify them.

"July is a period of peak diversity for moths across the country," says NMW co-founder David Moskowitz, an entomologist and senior vice president of EcolSciences in New Jersey. Moskowitz also lures moths with "sweet bait." Beer, bananas and brown sugar or molasses are mixed together and allowed to ferment for a few days, says Moskowitz, who then paints the mixture on the sides of trees at dusk and waits to see which moths show up.

Celebrating its second year, National Moth Week has already outgrown its name, becoming something more akin to World Moth Week. Events are scheduled in 34 countries, from Nicaragua to Norway.

In the Washington area, home to a thousand moth species, several events are planned:

• At the National Museum of Natural History, USDA entomologist John Brown will provide an hour-long, behind-the-scenes tour of the National Insect Collection, which consists of nearly 30 million specimens, a tenth of which are moths. Tours start at 2 p.m., July 22-26. Each tour is limited to 10 participants. To reserve a spot, e-mail Brown at john.brown@ars.usda.gov.

Virgin Tiger Moth, Grammia virgo, illustration by Patterson Clark

Virgin tiger moth
Gramma virgo

• At Huntley Meadows Park in Fairfax County, USDA entomologist David Adamski will present an indoor program about a moth survey he is conducting at the park, followed by an outdoor light-and-sheet program. July 20, from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.; limited to 20 people, who must register by calling the park at 703-768-2525.

Federal authorities are also contributing to the week of motherly love.

• A temporary post office will operate at Butterfly Park in East Brunswick, N.J., on

July 20. Envelopes with first-class postage will be thumped with a commemorative moth-week cancellation.

• In March, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) sponsored a resolution designating the last full week of July 2013 as National Moth Week "for promoting the conservation of moths and increasing the awareness, study, and appreciation of moths, their incredible biodiversity, and their importance to ecosystem health." The resolution has yet to make it out of committee.

Source: nationalmothweek.org