Moth trapping - an introduction!

Moths are an amazingly diverse group of insects and are fascinating to study. They act as useful indicators of habitat quality and less than 1% of them will eat your clothes.

To a beginner, moth appreciation can seem like a daunting prospect. The best way to find moths is by using a moth trap, which sounds like a horrible killing machine but it isn't. I do sometimes cringe at the term, because unlike other types of ecological survey equipment that actually kill the contents (i.e. pitfall traps, malaise traps), any moths that enters a moth trap can expect to enjoy a luxury night of shelter and warmth before being released unharmed again the following morning. Most moth traps consist of a light source, either actinic tubes (those ones you see fitted on the train) or powerful mercury vapour (MV) bulbs, fitted over a catchment box. The idea is that moths will fly towards the bulb, get disorientated and fall into the catchment box via a funnelled entrance. The next morning you can then identify and record your catch.

I won't bother going into details on all aspects of their design, but here are a few useful links to check out if you're thinking about joining the ever growing trend...
I first developed an interest in moths after I recording a video of a Hummingbird Hawk-moth that made a brief visit to the garden back in September 2008. I had no idea what it was at the time, but after re-visiting the video in 2009 to try and find out what it was, I was fascinated to discover that it was a long-distance migrant had made its way to the garden all the way from mainland Europe! Of course birds migrate all the time, but a moth crossing the sea? That's madness. The sheer array of different species out there to find tipped me over the edge and in September 2009 I got myself a moth trap.

I've been running a moth trap in my garden ever since; which last time I checked, looked a little like this.

Having used various DIY traps for a few years, in January 2012 I treated myself to the big new shiny moth trap that I currently use in the garden. The design itself even has a name - it's called a Robinsons trap.

The area surrounding my garden is very much suburban, and apart from a bit of oak woodland about half a mile away, the only suitable moth magnets in the immediate area are a hazel tree, a few young hawthorn shrubs, a birch trees, a big apple tree, a sycamore, and a few conifer trees.

Being surrounded by housing, as well newly installed extra bright 'eco-friendly' street lights, catches in the garden are never as high as they could be, and certainly no match for traps in more rural locations. Despite this, the garden has reached a total of around 500 species. Notable claims to fame so far have been Surrey and London's first record of the rare immigrant, Jersey Mocha, caught during a period of high migrant activity in August 2011, and the county's first Ethmia quadrillella in August 2013. In June 2014, I was lucky enough to catch the 2nd British record of Euchromius cambridgei, pictured below.

Here's a selection of photos of some of the more interesting species to grace the garden...

Ethmia quadrillella

Euchromius cambridgei

Yellow-legged Clearwing

Orange-tailed Clearwing

Red-belted Clearwing

Red-tipped Clearwing

Jersey Mocha

Dark Spinach

Scallop Shell

Brown Scallop

Maple Pug

Toadflax Pug

White-spotted Pug

Yarrow Pug

Plain Pug

Ochreous Pug

Narrow-winged Pug

Sloe Pug

Great Oak Beauty

Oak Processionary

Hoary Footman

Jersey Tiger

White-line Dart

Dark Sword-grass

Small Ranunculus

Blossom Underwing


Toadflax Brocade

Dotted Chestnut

Tree-lichen Beauty
Scarce Silver-lines

Mother Shipton

Waved Black

Buttoned Snout

Pinion-streaked Snout