Moth Research

The Pitt Moth Monitoring Project

Hello! Have you come across a device like this one? I am using these devices to study moths in Moshannon, Sproul, and Elk State Forests.

This project focuses on how spraying for spongy moths (Lymantria dispar, formerly known as gypsy moths) affects other species of moths and birds.

What do the devices do?

These devices contain UV and LED lights. At night, the lights attract moths and other insects to land on the white backboard. There, an onboard camera takes a close-up picture of the gathering insects. 

Protecting forests

The PA DCNR and PA Game Commission protect Pennsylvania public forests by spraying an insecticide called tebufenozide (brand name: Mimic). Although tebufenozide is sprayed to coincide with spongy moth emergence, it can kill any caterpillar that ingests a large enough dose.

Despite tebufenozide's ability to affect other species of caterpillars, in the long term its use protects key trees, forests, and wildlife. 

Spongy moths defoliate hundreds of thousands of acres of forest in Pennsylvania every year. This repeated defoliation can kill trees. 

Oak trees, one of the favored foods of spongy moths, are some of the most heavily affected species. These also provide food and habitat for many species of moths, birds, and mammals like deer, so protecting them is important!

Defoliation also dries out the forest floor, potentially leading to wildfire or sunburning understory plants.