Michael Blencowe is the Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Community Wildlife Officer.
A guest on this year's Springwatch Extra, he kindly wrote us the below guide on how a beginner can trap moths and become a fully flapping 'Moth-er'.
Moth Trapping for Beginners
You can sit in your garden all day and enjoy the butterflies, birds and bees but the best wildlife that lives there only comes out when you go to sleep – the moths. With 2500 species in the UK our moths have our butterflies outnumbered 43 to 1. And in many cases moths are much bigger and more colourful than our butterflies. There are pink ones (Elephant Hawk-moth), green ones (Large Emerald), yellow ones (Brimstone), ones wearing glasses (Spectacle), ones that look like twigs (Buff-tip) even one that looks a bit like Des Lynam (Mottled Umber). Well, if you squint it does.
There’s such an amazing variety of moths flying through your garden each night. If you want to see them you can fork out for an expensive Mercury Vapour professional moth trap but the blinding light will keep your neighbours awake, attract ravers or people who think a UFO has crash landed on your lawn and in the morning you’ll be overwhelmed by the bucket-load of moths you’ve lured in. It’s better to start off small. Here’s some simple and inexpensive things you can do to get closer to your moths.
1) Leave a light on
Next time you settle down to watch the TV in the evening leave on an outside light. As we all know moths are attracted to lights (but no-one knows exactly why) and by checking around the light before you go to bed (or if you’re tired – the next morning) you’ll find a few moths. If you haven’t got an outside light leave an inside light on and open your curtains and see what moths land on your window.
2) Grab a torch
If you’re feeling adventurous grab a torch and head out on a nocturnal safari in your garden or the countryside at night. You can search for moths who will be feeding on flowers or who will be attracted by the torchlight. Buying a butterfly net to try to catch them turns the whole thing into a challenge – man vs moth.
3) Hang up a bedsheet
A white sheet illuminated by a bright light provides a dazzling canvas that moths can’t resist. Hang the sheet over a washing line or fence and shine a bright torch on it. Or place it on the lawn with a bright lantern-style torch in the centre. Just make sure you have the sheet owner’s consent before you take it off the bed and drag it through the garden.
4) Turn the bathroom into a moth trap
Go into the bathroom, open the window wide and turn on the light and leave it for an hour or so. On a good night moths will fly inside and you can return later to see who has come to visit. It’s best to check that no-one is in the bath when you do this.
In each case you can hold the moths temporarily in jam jars or pots to study or photograph them before releasing them. They’ll be OK in there. If I was a moth I’d rather be in a jam jar for an hour than up there with the bats. Most will settle to allow you to identify them but if they get too flappy its best to release them out of courtesy. There are now some great moth i.d. books you can buy or there are plenty of identification resources online.
Found any good moths? Great! You are now officially a moth-er. From here you can progress to buying a basic moth trap with a low output actinic bulb which will atract more moths (and not annoy the neighbours). Whatever method you choose I guarantee you’ll be amazed by the moths that you find.
Related link: http://www.mothnight.info/www/