All ages

This activity is a story, best told while walking in the woods in the evening, just as the moths begin to emerge . . .

Materials: a lovely patch of woods

Two hundred years ago, there were moths in England called peppered moths. They were light gray with dots of black and brown all over them. They looked like somebody had peppered them, which worked out fine for the moths—it made them blend in with tree bark so it was hard for birds to find them and eat them.

But there were also a few peppered moths who didn't look peppered at all: They were completely black. But only a few. You can probably guess why: The black ones didn't blend in very well, so they were dinner for the birds. If someone has you for dinner, you aren't going to have too many babies, of course. And since the black moths were being eaten the most, there were never too many black baby moths being born.

Then something interesting happened. Big factories were built in the town near the moths' forest. Dark black smoke belched out of huge smokestacks, making the air near the town very dirty. In fact, the bark on the trees in the moths' forest turned completely black from the dirty factory smoke.

That made things a little different for the moths. What do you think changed? Now the black moths were almost invisible on the black tree trunks, and the light-colored peppered moths were so easy to see. Well, maybe you can guess what happened. Birds only eat what they can find, so who were they eating now? That's right: the light-colored ones! The black moths were probably pretty happy about this: Now more of their babies could be born and stay safely hidden from the birds on the black tree trunks.

About twenty years later, people noticed that almost all of the moths in the forest were black and only a few were light gray. The peppered moth had been changed, all because its environment changed.

Supplement with: "Camouflage Egg Hunt" on pp. 241-243 in Parenting Beyond Belief.13

(See the Resources section below for links to amazing websites with many more activities for the inquiring mind.)

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