Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge in Texas is known for its bottomland hardwood forest, reptiles, amphibians and waterfowl.

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama is known for a sugar–white sand beach, nesting sea turtles, migratory birds and the dune–dwelling endangered Alabama beach mouse.

Lately, though, both of these refuges have become known as meccas of moths. The moth might be one of nature’s underappreciated species—at least compared with its more celebrated cousin the butterfly. But these two refuges, in their own way, have discovered the moth’s beauty and abundance.

Photo of a moth

At Trinity River Refuge, an hour northeast of Houston, staff and an avid moth enthusiast have documented more than 190 species in 26 families since April 2012.

This has been done without benefit of a formal moth survey. Instead, most of the moths have been found near the refuge’s new headquarters building. The facility is on one of the few high places within in the frequently flooded bottomland hardwood forest habitat. The moths have been documented with a DSC–H2 digital camera.

Photo of a moth
These three moths are among the 190–plus species to be documented at Trinity National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. They are Chlorochlamys chloroleucaria, Idaea tacturata and Apantesis vittata. (Stuart Marcus/USFWS)

If information on the major Web sites dedicated to moths (Butterflies and Moths of North America, BugGuide and Moth Photographers Group) is correct, this documentation has earned a new distinction for Trinity River Refuge’s home county. Liberty County now ranks No. 1 in Texas in terms of number of moth species publicly recorded.

At Bon Secour Refuge, on the Gulf Coast, Richard L. Brown, the director of the Mississippi Entomological Museum, has collected five previously undescribed and unnamed species of moth on the refuge.

Brown has been conducting research at Bon Secour Refuge since 1989. In several peer–reviewed journal articles over the past six years, the five new species he collected there have been named: Sinoe kwakae; Schinia psamathea; Sparganothis tessellata, Sparganothis azulispecca and Cenopis unicolorana.

Photo of a moth

“I like the diversity of colors and forms among moths along with their wide range of habits and behaviors in the caterpillar stages as well as adult,” says Brown. “Moths are cool because they have a natural velcro to lock their wings to their body—and this came about before humans ever thought about going to the moon.”

The photos on this page, we hope you will agree, show just how intricate and beautiful the moth can be.

Photo of a moth
These moths collected by entomologist Richard Brown at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama have been described as new species. They are Sparganothis tessellata and Sparganothis azulispecca. (Mississippi Entomological Museum)

Stuart Marcus is refuge manager at Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Denise McInturff is park ranger at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama.