How to make Moth Broth and wow your kids this summer

A luna moth is found on the stone steps outside a home in Hancock County in June of 2016. It was attracted to the porch light overnight and remained there in the morning. (Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN)   Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN

A luna moth is found on the stone steps outside a home in Hancock County in June of 2016. It was attracted to the porch light overnight and remained there in the morning. (Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN)
Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN

This summer you can wow your kids with this fun (and stinky) science project that will attract moths and turn a fun adventure in entomology into an unforgettable educational experience.

According to Charleen Donahue who is a statewide forest entomologist at the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Maine is home to more than 3,000 species of Lepidoptera with only around 185 of those are butterflies.

Did you know?

  • The difference between moths and butterflies are that butterflies fly during the day.
  • Scientists believe that moths use the light from the stars and moon to navigate at night. Artificial lights disorient and confuse moths and so instead of flying by the light of terrestrial night sky they fly toward a light bulb.
  • Tomato worms are commonly thought to turn into luna moths. They actually turn into hawk moths, which are large, but not as much fun to look at as luna moths.
  • Three of the coolest moths to look for in Maine are the luna moth, which as a caterpillar eats the leaves from beech trees, the Hyalophora Cecropia, which is a big fun looking moth, and the Dryocampa Rubicunda aka rosy maple, which as a caterpillar is known as the green maple worm and eats tree leaves.

Here is what a Dryocampa Rubicunda aka rosy maple looks like:

A pink and yellow moth is found by a porch light at a Hancock County home in June 2016. (Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN)   Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN

A pink and yellow moth is found by a porch light at a Hancock County home in June 2016. (Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN)
Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN

You can wow your kids by making Moth Broth, a stinky, fermented paste used to attract moths for the purpose of observing. Here is a recipe that kids can make themselves:

Moth Broth

This recipe for Moth Broth was originally printed in Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children by Sharon Lovejoy, which is a fantastic beginner’s guide to gardening for kids. Check it out!

Gather together:

  • 2 over ripe bananas
  • sugar
  • water
  • bowl + spoon
  • paint brush
  • flashlight
  • curious kids!

Step One: Mash together the bananas and sugar until combined, adding enough water to make a thick paste.

Step Two: Let the bowl of paste sit in hot sunlight for two or three days until it gets nice and stinky. Be sure to cover or bring inside at night so not to attract unwanted attention from wildlife.

Step Three: Once the paste has fermented (gets really stinky) paint it onto the bark of a big tree. Be sure to paint it during the day so that the paste can have time to produce a smell that will attract moths later at night.

Step Four: Grab a flashlight and go outside at night to see what you attracted!

How many different kinds of moths can you spot? Did you find a cool moth that you can’t identify? Try taking a picture of it and uploading it to Bugguide.net where scientists, amateurs, and professionals all share moth and butterfly information. You can ask a pro to identify your cool find!

BDN staff, Aislinn Sarnacki has had some cool encounters with moths that you can read about here.

Try this experiment at home and post pictures in the comments section.