Correllus State Forest Moth Night

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July 5, 2024 by Matt Pelikan

Vineyarders Gather to Celebrate the Night Life

On the evening of July 2, 2024, an enthusiastic flock of naturalists gathered at Correllus State Forest headquarters in Edgartown, Massachusetts, for an annual blacklighting event run by BiodiversityWorks. Led by entomologist Paul Goldstein, an expert on Vineyard moths and a research entomologist with the Smithsonian, the event featured two sheets and light arrays to attract nocturnal insects and ran from about 8:30 p.m. until the last fatigued observers called it quits around 11:00.

Attended by more than 40 members of the community, the event tallied about 70 insect species drawn in by specialized lighting (mercury vapor and fluorescent “black lights,” chosen to be especially attractive to nocturnal insects). While moths dominated the list of species observed, flies, beetles, wasps, and true bugs (Hemiptera) also figured in the mix.

Correllus State Forest, owned and managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, is noted for its diverse insect life. Its populations of rare moths, many of them associated with scrub oak (Quercus ilicifolia) as their caterpillar food plant, make Correllus an important site from the conservation perspective. These annual moth nights have emerged as a tradition way to celebrates the diversity of Correllus and educates the public about value of the plants and animals that live there.

Matt Pelikan is the director of the Martha’s Vineyard Atlas of Life project at BiodiversityWorks.