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You’re Invited to a Moth Ball: A Nighttime Insect Celebration by Loree Griffin Burns

Loree Griffin Burns’ new book You’re Invited to a Moth Ball arrived this month. It’s a delight for anyone who likes to be outside or has a fascination for insects. Now that our days and nights are less structured, there’s more time to explore the world around us. You’re Invited to a Moth Ball gives you the tips you need to discover some of the night’s treasures-moths.

Listen to the interview with Loree below. If you have a moth ball, be sure to let us know and tell us all about your guests. The transcript is below.


Loree: Hi, Kate. Thanks for having me on the blog today. I am super excited to answer some of your questions about You’re Invited to a Moth Ball.

Interviewer: Where did you get the story seed for You’re Invited to a Moth Ball?

Loree: Well, back in 2014 I went to a talk at my local Audubon sanctuary, and at that talk there was a naturalist whose name is David Small from Massachusetts, talking about the moths that he has seen over the years in his backyard. 

Now, I live an hour from where Dave lives, and I had seen maybe a dozen or two different species of moths at my house, all small, brown moths. Dave, in this lecture, showed us hundreds of species of moths that he had seen in his yard, not an hour from my house. They weren’t small and drab at all. They were these large, in some cases very colorful, very exciting and very unusual striking moths. 

I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that those kind of moths lived near me. When I talked to Dave about why I hadn’t seen them, he made it very clear. You have to stay up late, much later than I was staying up to watch moths. Most moths are more active between the hours of midnight and 2 A.M. If you’re like me you’re sleeping at that time of day or that time of night. 

So, by staying up later and also by using a couple tricks to convince moths, to lure moths if you will into your observation space, you can see a lot more moths. That’s what this book is about. So, the idea grew out of that lecture and then the time I spent with Dave Small learning about moths and moth watching. Everything I learned from him and a whole lot more ended up in this book.

Interviewer: How often do you have moth balls?

Loree: So, in the years since, I’ve attended moth balls at Dave’s house and learned a lot from him. I now have my own lights, and I know how to make bait. Those are the two ways that you will learn in the book that we can entice moths into our green spaces. 

So, I have my own lights. I know how to make bait. So, I in the summer months, usually in July and August, I try and have my lights on and/or put bait out a couple of times a week. If it’s going to be a very warm, clear evening during those months chances are I’m going to be trying to stay up late to see which moths come to see my lights and bait.

Interviewer: What are some interesting things that you’ve learned from Dave?

Loree: So I’ve learned from Dave and a bunch of other mentors that I have had actually a lot of other things about moths. Some of them I read about in the book. I tell you about one of my mentors named Tea who taught me some interesting things about female moths and egg laying, and I hope you’ll read about that. 

One of the other things that I’ve learned that is super interesting is that the moth’s life cycle which you probably know is a four-part lifecycle. Moths are eggs, and then out of that egg hatches a caterpillar or a larva. After the larva, when the larva is ready to transform, there’s a pupil stage which we often call a cocoon for a moth. Out of that cocoon will eventually emerge an adult moth.

Those life stages for each individual species of moth is timed in a very  particular way to the season. It often has to do with what their hosts plant species is, and when that is around. 

But, what I’ve learned is there are patterns to moth life cycles. The more you observe moths, the more you learn those patterns. So, for example. It is April here in Massachusetts where I live. Not many adult moths are out and about yet. But, there is one moth, called the half wing, that is an early moth. It is an adult moth. That’s the stage of the life cycle it’s at in early spring. So, I see that moth now. I’m pretty sure that it’s not a moth that I will see at the end of the season, in the fall for example.

So, there are patterns to the moth life cycle. The more you watch them across the moth watching season, the more you learn about them and get familiar with them. That’s something I learned from my moth mentors.

Interviewer: Tell us about your revision process for You’re Invited to a Moth Ball.

My revision process is probably very similar to a lot of the writers who are visiting your blog. I knew from the very beginning I wanted to tell the story of a single moth watching event, and I wanted this book to feel like a party that you’ve been invited to. So, I knew the title very early, You’re Invited to a Mothball, would serve as an invitation. 

I wanted readers to arrive at this event during daylight hours and be involved in the set up for a moth watching event, and then I wanted the sun to go down and the moths to come and the watchers to stay up and watch the moths that arrive and learn something about them.

The trick for me was to write that all down in a way where you followed that party trajectory, but you also got the information about Mark life cycles and moth personalities and preferences at the time that you needed it in the story. 

So, I wrote that all out, and then I did what many writers do, I did shared that with trusted writer friends who read the story as I had written it. They could tell me the places where the story was working well, and the places where they had all the information they needed it at the moment they needed it, and the places, this is more important to me, the places where things got confusing. The places where they didn’t know what they needed to know when they needed to know it. 

So I would take those comments, come back to my desk and rewrite the story based on those comments. I would try and fill in the blanks and fix the places where things got confusing.

I repeated this process many times. I gave my new draft to my readers, or to my editor, and they read. They found the places that worked, found the places that didn’t work and let me know about both. They gave me back the manuscript, and I came back to my desk. Once again I tried to fix those places where things got difficult for my readers. 

That was my revision process. That is my revision process for every book I make actually, and I’m pretty sure it’s probably revision process that some of you use as well.

So Kate again, thank you for having me. It was a real pleasure to answer some of your questions. I’d be happy to answer more if anyone has them. Just put them in the comments on the blog post, and I’ll answer if I’m able. If you do read You’re Invited to a Moth Ball, I hope you have a great time and start watching moths in your own backyard.

Take care,


Remember to ask Loree your questions below.

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