Guest blog written by Liam Mooney, who runs @moths_daily on Twitter

Throughout my childhood, the importance of the natural landscape was a virtue heavily impressed on me by my parents. My sister and I attended summer camp after summer camp, where the values of outdoorsmanship, conservation, and a general appreciation for the beauty of nature were stressed above all others.

The seasons were marked by the various activities we would partake in; Summers spent swimming in the Tennessee river, autumns in apple and pumpkin orchards, winters spent up appreciating the sparse snowfall that we spent our school days wishing for, and springs relishing in the various festivals celebrating harvests, bees, flowers, and all the joys of the oncoming warmth.

It wasn’t until I had moved away to college to pursue a music degree, trading my Appalachian home for the flat farm plains of northern Mississippi, that I came to realize just how dearly I missed the lush forests of the Tennessee Valley. I returned home each summer eager to shed the worries brought on by my undergraduate education for the simple pleasures of being surrounded by the familiar nature that I had grown up with. Even during my stays in Mississippi, nature became my church. I found peace and solace in the wind rustling through the trees, differentiated the days of endless studying in preparation for medical school entrance exams by the blooming of wildflowers along the trails, and felt revitalized at the return of insect life throughout the spring and summer.

While I was, and still am, incredibly grateful for the opportunities to appreciate and explore the beauty of my home, I was fully aware that many did not share my love for the many intricate components of the environment around them. Prior to rediscovering the beauty of the outdoors, I would have scoffed at someone attempting to empathize with bugs. After all, had I not spent countless hours of my childhood being assailed by mosquitos, running from an accidentally disturbed hornet’s nest, or meticulously picking mayfly corpses from my clothes and hair after disturbing the wrong bush? Regardless, as I began paying much more conscious attention and care to the inhabitants of the forests and plains I had trodden through, I began to find beauty in what had previously turned me away.

I found myself particularly amazed by the moths I would find throughout my adventures; Eastern Tennessee is home to a myriad of species of highly charismatic moths, from the Luna, to the Polyphemus, and even the adorable Rosy Maple, spotting one of these gorgeous little guys would make my whole week. Soon, I found myself with hundreds of pictures of various moths in my phone’s gallery, some saved from other photographers, others that I had taken myself. What was once a chance encounter on a hike soon became something of a passion, and I wanted to share my love for a relatively (and unfairly, might I add) disregarded species with others.

As much as I wanted to signal the virtues of moths to those around me, it was often an uphill battle. Where I saw cute, fuzzy little bodies, others saw creepy, hairy, crawling pests. Eventually, people came around. I had even gotten the most adamant bug-haters in my social circles to think twice about swatting that stray moth that flitted in! I realized that a large portion of people, similar to my experience with my friends, could be convinced of the values these bugs bring to the world. Not only their aesthetics, but their important niche as pollinators and sources of food in the food chain were practically unknown, unless one had sought out that information themselves.

I thought to myself, why stop here? I took to social media, and eventually created the Daily Moths account. What initially started as a fun, somewhat goofy way for me to spread images of cute moths to my friends’ timelines eventually gained traction, much to my surprise. With a follower count upwards of thirty thousand and growing, I never expected so many people would be interested in seeing pictures of moths on their social media feeds. If anything, I hope that account has shown people to be more tolerant of bugs, and look for beauty in places where they may not think to look.

In the future, I would love to use this platform I have accidentally amassed to help support important conservation issues. It's no secret that insect populations are declining globally due to environmental degradation and climate change, and moths are certainly not exempt from that. If people become more galvanized towards protecting their local insect populations through interacting with Daily Moths, or even if they become more aware of the ecological problems that threaten moth populations, then that is the best outcome I could have hoped for.

Follow Liam on Twitter @moths_daily

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