Best ways to find/attract moths

I have been thinking of finding a way to successfully gather moths in one location. I believe this can be done easily with a light and some kind of white background for ease of photographing them, but I wanted to go out there and ask if anyone knew a better way.

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Light traps are tried and true. There is no easier way to see nocturnal winged insects. The options for light source and set up are plentiful, so you can pick one that works for your goal and budget.

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White sheet and UV lights are cheap and effective

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There is a lady who uses a bucket with multiple layers of cardboard (thing cardboard cup holders) and a lamp light as a lid on the bucket.

She sets it outside at night and in the morning she removes each layer of cardboard to find moths resting on them.



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I use a collapsible net laundry bag with cardboard egg cartons inside. I hang it below my porch light, which I’ve replaced with a blacklight bulb. Works pretty well, although, to be honest, I get the most species by simply checking below the porch lights at about 10 pm and 6 am (before the birds arrive).

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Light traps are by far the easiest way to attract a diverse array of moths, especially if you want to photograph them alive as opposed to bulk collecting for later identification/pinning/etc.

The white background just makes things easier to spot (especially small insects) and is somewhat easier for some insects to grab hold of, but they will also land on your backyard fence, plywood/stone siding, etc. Proper placement of your light(s) to be visible from a wide area is important.

Here’s a great overview of a range of homemade traps used over a period of 50+ years by some very dedicated collectors in Louisiana. Note that few/none of them involve a white sheet - the lights (and in some cases lures) are doing all the work.

There’s also a facebook group that specifically covers Entomological traps of various types.

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I’ve been a moth-er for several years now and I’ve experimented with several different types of traps and many different types of lights.

If you don’t want to stay up until midnight, bucket traps similar to the one mo0nsgreenthumb posted a picture of will work well. If you don’t mind staying up until midnight (or sometimes later if it’s a really good night) I recommend setting up a light sheet. I find light sheets a lot of fun because you get to watch the moths come in, many of them you can photograph right on the sheet, and you get to scramble to try to catch that rare one flying around the light you’ve never seen before it gets away. The white cotton sheet is usually clothes-pinned to a rope tied between two trees or poles. Sometimes I’ll clip it to the shutters on my back porch.

I prefer to hang the lights on a second rope about a foot away from the sheet, If that’s not an option I’ll clamp them on a tripod. I use a combination of two or three different lights. I usually use a fluorescent black light that I bought for $12 at Walmart (I’ve found fluorescent black lights work better than LED black lights), a light bulb for a bug zapper, and a self-ballasted mercury vapor bulb (100 or 250 watt). A regular incandescent light bulb can be substituted for the mercury vapor bulb. Avoid white LEDs they attract very little.

I hope this helps, and I hope you have fun mothing this summer.

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I have been playing around with a “on the go” kit that I can take in the car, walk X distance, and prop up easily. I am sure it will evolve over time, but for now its a nice start.

Basically 2 stakes (I use bamboo), a white sheet, and some twine. The stakes can be a bit akward size wise, but on normal tracks its fine. Then I just point my light at it, and leave for an hour whilst I look for other critters.


I am only really doing it not long after sunset at this stage, and the one hour duration will also be limiting what shows up. But at the same thing, timewise its pretty easy to do as a casual night walk thing.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2023-11-01&lat=-42.10236358002454&lng=171.3049141668755&page=1&place_id=any&radius=14.422005754908156&user_id=sebastiandoak&verifiable=any

Whilst that seach has several other obs, pretty much all the ones on cloth are roughly this setup.

I am open minded to advice on improving my setup as well.

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