Mothapalooza 2022


Friday eve through Sunday morning, July 15 -17, 2022

Two nights of mothing, Sat field trips, meals & evening presentations

Highlands Nature Sanctuary, Arc of Appalachia Preserve System

Registration fee: $175.00 per person; lodging optional 


Keynote Speakers:

  Doug Tallamy    Author of Bringing Nature Home,

Nature’s Best Hope, & Nature of Oaks

Sam Jaffe  Founder of The Caterpillar Lab,

A New Hampshire-based Nature Education Initiative


With Special Guests: Jim McCormac, John Howard, Kyle Bailey,

Kim Banks, Diane Brooks, Kelly Capuzzi, Glenn Crisler, Becky Donaldson,

Ann Geise, Chelsea Gottfried, Dan Hodges, Laura Hughes,

Dave McShraffey, John & Shaun Pogacnik  & Colleen Sharkey

The Event! In the biologically rich 3000-acre Highlands Nature Sanctuary and surrounding preserves, we will have the opportunity to witness large numbers of moth species and other nocturnal insects that will be attracted to our specially-installed light stations, all while under the mentorship of expert naturalists. Evening presentations will be hosted at the Paxton Historic Theater in Bainbridge, Ohio, 5 miles east of the Sanctuary. Saturday afternoon guided hikes will expose participants to the stunning beauty of the karst country landscapes and Appalachian foothills of the larger region, with many natural history field trips for registrants to choose from. This event will serve to help you begin or further advance, your personal journey of discovery into the mysterious and intriguing nocturnal world of moths. Be prepared to stay up late into the night, so come well rested! Be assured you will be well fed by Sanctuary staff who will be preparing for you two brunches and Saturday night dinner.

Drawing Us in Like Moths to Flame. For those of us who think of moths as mostly errant drab-colored creatures that accidentally stray into our homes through an open door, an intentional encounter with moths in their natural environment – with their exquisite wing patterns, often brightly furred bodies, and remarkable diversity – is a transformative experience. Once hooked on mothing, hot mid-summer nights will never be the same. Ohio has over 3,000 species of moths – ranging from micro moths a few millimeters in size to giant silk moths larger than the palm of our hands. True, some look like “little brown moths,” but others look like they are woven out of the finest tapestry or that they have borrowed the hues of fruit sherbets. Moths can look just like wasps; hummingbirds, bird droppings, owl eyes and even spiders! And, they bear marvelous names, like Blurry Chocolate Angle, Pistachio Emerald, Scribbler, Green Marvel, Betrothed, Penitent, German Cousin, and Blinded Sphinx, just to name a few! 

The Theme of Mothapalooza 2022 is GREAT BOOKS! A really good book can shift an entire culture. Just think, as just one example, how Roger Tory Peterson shifted people from holding guns into carrying binoculars, and founded the world’s largest nature craze! Or how Rachel Carson activated generations of environmentalists. During this event, we will be showcasing the authors of four life-changing books related to Moths – two of which aren’t yet published, and one that was published back in 1909. See Schedule and FAQ for details.

If you are a Beginner. Because there are so many different kinds of moths and their activity takes place when we are usually fast asleep, it can be overwhelming at first to try to learn them. Here is where wiser mentors, as provided throughout this event, can make a big difference. We will also be presenting a late Friday afternoon optional program for beginning moth-ers, showing you how to make good use of cell phones apps, and observing the visual clues at your disposal that can lead to a firm ID –  if not by species, at least by genus. Please see Schedule for details and be sure to pre-register. Identifying the moth in hand will open the doors to the fascinating realms of moths’ natural history and ecology, what the caterpillar larvae eat, and what plants you can grow in your gardens to entice egg-laying activity in your own backyard. We will also show you how you can set up your own mothing station at home or afield. 

Meal Information & Covid Considerations. Since we don’t know what the COVID situation will be by July, we are planning for reasonable accommodations. Most of this event will be held outside and registrants will be dispersed among two separate major mothing hubs: the Highlands Nature Sanctuary and Fort Hill  – both with multiple lighting stations. Additional special interest destinations will be offered with one lighting station each. Altogether the experience will offer a superb diversity of habitats and species. See more details on FAQ. Please note that if you don’t want to drive at night, you can enjoy a rich experience without leaving the Sanctuary. Brunches will be served over an extended period of time to keep the gathering sizes down. It will help us out if many of you “stagger” your way to breakfast, that is to say, stagger your times of arrival. (Although, if you stagger away from brunch with a happily full belly, that’s good too.) Saturday dinner will be served in two reserved shifts. Optional outdoor seating will be available under a tent for all meals. The Paxton Theater seats 350 people for our evening presentations, over twice the registration of this event. Face masks and other safeties and courtesies will be determined as we get closer to the event, following whatever state mandates are in place.

Lodging. The Highlands Nature Sanctuary has seven lodges that have been  reserved solely for event leaders and registrants, housing up to 60 people. See our FAQ page for more information on how to rent a room or a cabin at the Sanctuary and our current availability. Many participants will need to make their own lodging reservations in the surrounding region. A link to our list of recommended lodging accommodations near the Sanctuary can be found on our FAQ page. We highly recommend lodging in nearby Chillicothe, an incredibly historic and well-preserved town and a tourist attraction in its own right.

Mothapalooza History. After being hosted for many years running at Shawnee State Park, the ever-popular Mothapalooza event was thought to be permanently retired a few years ago due to its loss of its main organizer. That’s when some of its original Mothapalooza founders teamed up with the Arc of Appalachia to hatch a plan to resurrect the event. This will be the second time Mothapalooza has been hosted at the Highlands Nature Sanctuary. We expect Mothapalooza to be popular, so, if you want to come this year, be sure to register asap. 

Relax and enjoy the show. Let nature take you where she wants you to go. We have never been disappointed when we have set up our mothing sheets at the Sanctuary. No two nights are ever the same and the biodiversity of moths at this preserve and surrounding environs is splendid. It is safe to anticipate a weekend filled with considerable magic and discovery, as well as great camaraderie.

Photo by Jim McCormac

Mothapalooza 2022’s Featured Moth of the Year is the Harris’s Three Spot, Harrisimemna trisignata, a beguiling and incredibly handsome species that we can usually count on seeing at the Sanctuary during Mothapalooza. We thank Ann Geise for creating the the Harris’s Three Spot artwork, which will be featured and interpreted in a variety of ways over the weekend.

Photo by Jim McCormac

The adult form of Harris’s Three-Spot is a marvel of complexity and three dimensional sculpting. Photo by Jim McCormac.

Photo by Artemis Eyster

The caterpillar of the Harris’s Three Spot is weird and wondrous!! Each time it molts it retains the shell of its head on long hairs that it whips around when it feels the approach of a possible predator. According to Bugguide, the larvae feed on various woody plants, including wild raisin, winterberry, bush honeysuckle, black willow, white ash and apple. Photo by John Howard.

Photo by Jim McCormac

The large and colorful silk moths that peak in mid-July are always the stars of the Mothapolooza’s nocturnal show. Photo by Jim McCormac, taken at the Highlands Nature Sanctuary.

Photo by Artemis Eyster

A number of  very productive light stations will be set up at the Highlands Nature Sanctuary within walking distance of each other. For the more adventurous, light stations will also be set up along the 22-mile driving loop Limberlost Mothing Trail, beginning and ending at the Sanctuary. Photo by Artemis Eyster.