Finding moths

Light trapping

Light trapping is the most productive way of finding moths. The moths are attracted to ultra violet light such as that made by mercury vapour or actinic lamps.These lamps are attached to a trap such as a Skinner or Robinson moth trap and left out in gardens overnight, or at public events white sheets are used with a lamp over or next to them. Moths are attracted to the light and either enter the traps and hide among egg boxes or land on the sheet ready to be recorded.

At sheets, moths are quickly and easily identified as they arrive being easily visible, but the number is not possible to determine as moths will fly off and possibly return making duplicate records a problem. In traps the moths hide among the egg boxes and in the mornings it is easy to remove the egg boxes and record both species and number of each moth.

Pheromone lure

Some female moths produce chemicals that the males can detect with their usually larger and feathery antennae. These chemicals are called pheromones and artificial pheromones have been produced which are extremely good at attracting different moths. Some examples are the Emperor moth and the clearwing moths. The pheromone lures can be tied from branches in  net bags, then its just a case of sitting back and waiting. Of course you have to be in the right place at the right time for the target moth. The lures come with full instructions on how, when and where to use them.


Some moths will regularly visit rotting fruit or sap runs. These moths can be attracted by using a sweet and or fermenting concoctions and is called sugaring or wine roping. There are many different recipes which can be found in the literature and online. These concoctions are either painted onto tree trunk or fence posts or lengths of rope are soaked int hem and hung over branches.  They are usually sticky and smelly so you much be sure you want and are allowed to use them where you intend to put them.

Searching for adult moths

Many species of moth fly during the day. These can be observed and recorded just like butterflies. It is possible to see them nectaring on flowers like hummingbird hawk-moths or being kicked up from vegetation while walking like the grass moths. Knowing which moths can be found in which habitats will help identify the moths observed. Some moths such as ghost moths are readily observed at dusk lekking above the vegetation.

Some night time moths can be observed at rest during the day. Looking in places which are lit during the night often shows up many species of moth. Also looking on tree trunks or fence posts will be productive.

Searching for eggs and larvae

Many caterpillars and eggs can be found by searching the specific food plants at the right times of the year. These can be looked for, swept with a net or beaten using a beating tray and baton. Caterpillars can be found on or inside vegetation if you know where to look. Leaf mining species leave particular galleries on the leaves of their food plants. Other caterpillars leave tell tale signs of their location, such as leaf rolling.