Pollinator & Moth Night

A popular program will return to Williamstown tonight as Katy Lustofin will bring her discussion of pollinators and moths to the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

Every month, a different subject is covered at the Waverly Road refuge, said Michael Schramm, visitor services manager at the refuge.

“Last month was about fireflies. Nature photography is in September,” he said. “It’s a little different each time. They try to post it on Facebook.”

Master Naturalist Emily Grafton, a volunteer with the Friends of Ohio River Islands NWR, has been scheduling the programs the last few months. She said she’s excited about the return of moth night.

“There are close to 22,000 species of woodland moths in North America,” she explained. “There are 11,000 in northeast North America.”

She said the moths are part of the food chain for birds.

“Birds want to feed the most protein-rich food to their young, so they feed them caterpillars,” she said. “Then the adult birds eat the moths.”

During Moth Night, outside lights are activated, as the insects are attracted to certain kinds of light.

“We turn on all the lights outside the building and the moths rush to the building,” Grafton said. “Children and people of all ages love it. The later in the night it gets, the more moths we get. Sometimes you have to wait a while on them, but when they come, it’s pretty awesome.”

Before attendees get to see the different kinds of moths, Lustofin, a biology and environmental science professor at Marietta College, will speak about pollinators.

“It’s not just insects, but animals that carry pollen from one plant to another,” she said. “A lot of our food depends on pollination.”

The discussion will be a general “what they are and why we should care,” she said.

“My area of research is on native bee species,” she added. “We have about 400 in the state of Ohio, so there’s a lot more diversity than people realize. Some are extremely beautiful.”

She said she will also discuss the types of bees and their lifestyles, along with how to make your yard more pollinator friendly.

“Some bees are social and live in hives with an overlap of generations,” she explained. “It’s the queen and her daughters raising the young.”

Other bees are solitary with just the queen and her offspring, she added.

Lustofin is passionate about teaching of the importance of pollinators.

“We are, across the world, declining in bees. Honey bees are in decline and monarch are in decline,” she said. “About 66 percent of our food depends on pollination. Apples, blueberries, almonds, potatoes, even canola oil and cotton depend on insect pollination.”

Lustofin has been teaching at Marietta College for 11 years. About three years ago, a pollinator habitat was planted near Stockport and became the Luke Chute Conservation Area.

“I have a degree in entomology and I’ve been interested in insects since I was a small child,” she said. “I got a chance to help develop a summer camp on bees at the University of Illinois. Kids have always been fascinated by insects, but they outgrow it. I never did.”

“Dr. Katy planted all these native plants locally a few years ago in a meadow and they’re doing a survey to see what species of pollinators are there and how many,” Grafton said.

Lustofin, who is also the president of the Friends of the Lower Muskingum River, said they applied to be a part of the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative three years ago.

“They provided the seed and we provided the manpower and equipment,” she said. “We planted on six or seven acres, which used to be an abandoned farm field.”

She said the conservation area and walking trails are open to the public.

“It’s a big field of wildflowers. They provide nectar and pollen for the pollinators,” she explained.

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.