Moth traps and mothing – how to start

Following yesterday’s post on moth trapping I have been asked if you can make a moth trap and where you can buy them from. You can make a moth traps but you do need a few bits if specialist equipment. The best (most effective) moth traps use a 125w mercury vapour bulb which because of their design need something called a choke – this ensures that the bulb doesn’t blow once you turn it on at the mains. This article here gives you some background information on how to make a moth trap and where you can buy the bits and pieces from. Making your own will cost around £100.

You can buy moth traps from specialist suppliers – the two I recommend are Anglian Lepidopterist Supplies or Watkins and Doncaster.

There are two main types of moth trap – the Skinner Trap which is a box with a light and there is the Robinson which is a tub with a light. The former will case around £150 and the latter £300.

I use a Robinson trap supplied 15 years ago by Anglian Lepidopterist Supplies (ALS). It is very good.

Both Skinner and Robinson traps need 240v power supplies – either from the mains or from a generator (needed if you are trapping in the countryside). Alternatively there is a trap called a Heath trap which runs off a 12v battery and uses actinic tubes. These are less bright and catch fewer moths but are useful if trapping in remote places. ALS and W&D supply all these types.

This is my ALS Robinson trap in the garden. The white box is the choke. Note the bulb has a plastic cover above it – bulbs run very hot and shatter if rain falls on them – thus the cover. The moths are attached to the light and then enter the ‘tub’ via a hole below the bulb. The tub contains a number of egg boxes which allow the ‘trapped’ moths to settle under them out of the light.

There are two other essential bits of equipment you need to start moth trapping – a field guide and a set of 20 pots.

This is the field guide I recommend – all species of British moth are illustrated and the descriptions of the species tell you when they fly and where.

IMG_3650I have a supply of around 20 of these plastic pots – you can quickly put a moth from the trap into one of these so you can then inspect them and identify them at your leisure. If you are trapping in your garden you can put the pots in the fridge to calm them down. They will be quite happy in the fridge overnight – you can then release them in the morning once you have IDed or photographed them. Such pots can be ordered from Watkins and Doncaster.

Buff tipHere is a buff tip moth from last night. These moths sit on twigs (especially birch) and then become cryptically camouflaged.

Fan footThis is a fan foot – the caterpillars eat the withered leaves of oak, beech and bramble.

Finally ……. identifying moths takes patience and time! Different species of moth are on the wing all year around but are most numerous (in terms of number of species and individuals) in the summer when it is dry and night time temperature is over 14 degrees.

When identifying moths always read the text for the species you think you have got. Is the flight period correct? – quaker moths fly in March, April and May so if you think you have a quaker in July you have made a mistake!

You can also consider joining your local moth group and then go out with them and get expert help in identifying species. Details of the Devon Moth Group can be found here.

Have fun and give it a go!


One thought on “Moth traps and mothing – how to start

  1. Pingback: 3 green moths – A Dartmoor and Devon blog

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