Plant for moths


Why attract moths?

Moths are crucial for the survival of many bat, bird and other mammal species as they are an important part of the food chain. If you can attract moths into your garden, you'll also start to attract some of these larger animals as well.

There are over 2,500 species of moth in the UK which is a great many more than the 60 species of butterfly we have. Also moths aren't just restricted to the night time, and being drab in colour. Some moths are day flying and they can come in a great variety of shapes and colours.

How to attract moths to your garden

day flying moth

The best way to attract moths is to have a variety of nectar filled flowers in your garden and generally the same flowers that attract butterflies will also attract moths. Try planting Buddleia, Red Valerian, Heather, Sallow or Ivy. Other favourites include Knapweed, Echinacea and Cardoons.

You can attract adult moths in other ways as well, which will cause them no harm but allow you to take a closer look at the species in your garden.

  • Light - Moths are naturally attracted to light at nightime so try leaving an outside light on and look for moths on windows and walls. You could also try hanging up a white sheet outside, shine a torch onto it and then see what species you've managed to attract.
  • Sugar - You can make up a sugary solution for moths which they will come and feed on instead of flowers. Simply heat cola in a pan then add brown sugar and black treacle until everything has dissolved. Let the mixture cool and then at dusk paint it onto tree trunks or posts. If you use a torch, you'll be able to see the moths feeding at night.
  • Wine rope - This is similar to the sugar mixture but you heat a bottle of cheap red wine in a pan and then add, and dissolve, a kilogram of sugar. When it's cooled dip lengths of cloth or rope into the mixture and hang them from tree branches. Download our Discover the Dark Side pocket guide below for further details.

Common moth species

White Ermine
Easily recognisable, this moth is all white with black spots and black antennae. It is widespread and common throughout the UK.

The caterpillars feed on a variety of wild and garden plants, and have a red stripe on their back which makes them easy to identify. The adults can be seen from late May to July in a wide range of habitats including hedgerows and gardens, and are easy to spot as they are attracted to light.

Heart and Dart
A moth with brownish wings with two markings on each: a black dart and also a rough heart shape, giving the moth its name. It is common and widespread throughout most of the UK.

The caterpillars feed on low growing plants like lettuce and chickweed, and they burrow under the ground during winter. The adults can be seen from late May to July and are common in gardens, meadows and woodland.

Silver Ground Carpet
Classed as a day-flying moth but can also be seen at dusk and into the night. It is usually white with a dark cross band on its wings and is well distributed and common throughout Britain and Ireland, including the Hebrides and Orkney.

The caterpillars feed on a variety of herbs, including cleavers, hedge bedstraw and primrose and the adults can be seen from May to July. They are found in a wide range of habitats including gardens, woodland, fen, scrubland and hedgerows.

Green Oak Tortrix
A very distinctive moth due to its bold green colouring; also very common in the UK.

The caterpillars feed mainly on leaves of the oak tree in woodlands, so much so that they could almost be classed as a pest as they completely strip the trees. The adult moths can be seen during May and June and they are common visitors to anywhere the oak tree can be found.

Small Magpie
The Small Magpie lives up to its name with black and white patterned wings. It also has a yellowish body and is very common in the south of the UK, getting less common as you go further north.

The caterpillars feed mainly on the common nettle but also use bindweeds and mints. The adults fly from June to July and they can be found in hedgerows, roadside verges and gardens.

Related downloads

Download PdfDownload the "Discover the Dark Side" Pocket Guide - 180KB

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.