From: Associated Press
Published February 10, 2006 12:00 AM

Expert Studies Moths at Carlsbad Caverns

CARLSBAD CAVERNS NATIONAL PARK, N.M. — Moths, an important food for Carlsbad Caverns' famed bats, will be studied to find out what kinds of moths exist and how many there are at the park.

Eric Metzler, a butterfly and moth expert, has begun a planned 10-year inventory of moths at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

He said he expects to find about 7,000 species of moths there.

"Moths account for nearly 13 percent of all described insects, and they are excellent indicators of sensitive habitats," he said. "The interaction between moths and plants is extremely important to the natural functioning of the park's natural resources."

It will be easier to manage the park's resources when more is known about the moths, Metzler said.

"Because moths are one of the most important sources of food for bats, the park will naturally benefit from knowing the species of moths that live there," he said.

Carlsbad Caverns is known for its Mexican free-tailed bats that fly from the caverns at dusk in the summer months, attracting thousands of visitors. Studies indicate the moths make up a large part of the diet of those bats.

Moths also pollinate certain plants, and their larvae provide food for birds, mice and predatory insects. The larvae eat vegetation, thus playing a role in reducing or controlling plant growth.

Metzler, now retired, was editor of the Ohio Lepidopterist for 25 years, a guest lecturer in lepidoptera at Ohio State University and a museum associate at the university's Museum of Biological Diversity, a guest instructor in field entomology at the University of Akron and a research associate at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Florida State Collection of Arthropods and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

Source: Associated Press

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