Annual Athol Moth Ball promises ‘an adventure’

Attendees of last year’s Athol Moth Ball examine the species found in one of many stations around Dave Small’s home. Established in 2009 to coincide with National Moth Week, the event takes place on July 20. 

Attendees of last year’s Athol Moth Ball examine the species found in one of many stations around Dave Small’s home. Established in 2009 to coincide with National Moth Week, the event takes place on July 20.  FILE PHOTO

David Small of the Athol Bird & Nature Club.

David Small of the Athol Bird & Nature Club. FILE PHOTO

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 07-10-2024 1:33 PM

ATHOL – For some, moths are merely pesky critters that flit around your head as you try to enjoy a summer night on the deck.

To others, they are a creature deserving of admiration, respect – and an entire week to celebrate their place in nature.

David Small of the Athol Bird & Nature Club falls into the latter category and will be hosting this year’s Moth Ball on Saturday, July 20. The event has grown from a small social visit at Small’s home 15 years ago.

“Back around 2009,” Small explained, “I happened to have a friend from out of town here – he was another entomology type – so we invited some people over to look at our moth setup. I have permanent lights set up so I can watch moths any night I want to. That’s how it started, and it’s been going ever since.”

Small described the event as “an opportunity to have some fun and see some different stuff.” Last year, he said, some 70 people attended the ball. While the event takes place at Small’s home, the event is now officially sponsored by the Athol Bird & Nature Club. This year it will coincide with the official start of National Moth Week, which spans the last full week of July, a worldwide celebration of moths started in 2012 by the Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission in East Brunswick, New Jersey.

Small said the diversity of moths is amazing, adding that he has seen close to 1,000 species over the last two decades.

“The variety itself is just astonishing, especially if you start looking at the smaller moths,” he said. “We all can recognize luna moths and cecropias or whatever, but the smaller ones are really extremely diverse and interesting and actually require different host plants that they’re associated with. Most moths are associated with a particular plant. So, the more diversity of native plants you have, the more diversity of moths you have.”

Many species of moth, said Small, spread plant pollen in the same manner as butterflies, particularly the smaller ones.

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Those smaller moths, said Small, “are very adept at pollination. They’re unseen for the most part because they’re mostly around at night, although not all of them. We do have a handful of day-flying moths also.”

Everything in Small’s yard, he explained, is planted either for people to eat, the birds to eat, or for moths and butterflies.

“What we do is set up a half-dozen or so different locations in the yard and the woods right behind us and people go from station to station to see things,” said Small. “It’s a lot of fun.”

The July 20 Moth Ball gets underway at 9 p.m. and runs “until whenever,” according to Small. Anyone planning to attend, he said, should bring a snack to share and a beverage of their choice, a flashlight, camera and “expect an adventure.” The address is 1542 Pleasant St. in Athol. Anyone interested in attending should send an email to Dave@Atholbirdclub.org.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@aol.com.