Light setups for mothing

Hi all! :) I’m considering getting some lights at some point in the near future to attract more moths this summer. I was going to follow this guide but the lights they recommend are sold out currently. Does anyone here who’s more knowledgeable have an opinion on these? Are they close enough? Does any old blacklight work?

Thanks :)


I think those would be fine. Don’t think there’s much of a difference among the LED blacklights like these.

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Are you looking for a highly portable system or one you will mostly use at home? I tried using several different varieties of LED UV A lights from Amazon and found they weren’t very effective. I found replacement bug zapper bulbs and herp bulbs much more effective. They aren’t as portable and require more power but attract more moths.

I recommend entoquip uv for home use

They’re a bit outside of my budget at the moment unfortunately.

Do different moths come to black lights from the ones that come to ordinary porch lights?

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Yes. Some moth species will ignore regular incandescent bulbs.


Certainly. I had a full year of porch lights only before I got a special lamp. More and larger moths generally came to the UV (sometimes there were a dozen Sphinx moths resting on the sheet together) and different types of other moths in general. There are other biases between the 2 data sets, but that’s inevitable.

Porch lights and diurnal Leps:

Black light Leps:


Were large moths like this a common sight at your light then?

For plug-in use, I was doing ok with a CF black light bulb and a trouble-light holder. Note that the fluorescent tube bulbs do wear out; if I’m leaving them on half the night regularly, they lose a lot of power within a few months.
Those do look like they’d be convenient for use with a power bank or something away from home. I’m going to get some and try.

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Yes. Specifically, Hyles lineata was common all summer. They are amazing pollinators and clearly attracted to the lamp when they were “tired” of flowers. I uploaded very few observations of sphinx moths, because it’s such an obvious and common species, and I was focusing on the smaller/rarer insects

Also, hawk moths in the genus Manduca (think hornworms) and some Zephyr silk moths were fun to see, but no tussock moths last summer.

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Sounds like you had some great success, congrats!

I’ve never tried such lights so can’t comment on success but I’ve had good luck with 13w and 20w actinic lights last year with nearly 300 species of moth caught during 2023 since mid may ( all in the UK and mostly from gardens). Depending on trap location they work well due to being relatively low light yet attracting a decent number of species in peak weather. Not sure how readily available they are in the US but here’s somewhere that sources them in the UK, the true king of moth lights is the mercury vapour lamp but they break easily, are crazy bright and are getting phased out in a lot of places. With any luck you’ll find a wealth of species with whatever you choose.
download - 2024-01-16T212033.334

I use those USB LED lights you linked to on Amazon.
I think they are good, however I also have not used anything else, so have little to compare to.
The pro’s: they are cheap, easy to set up, and can run on portable USB battery, very portable.
The cons: the build quality is generally low (you get what you pay for), I’m not sure if they are actually bad for your eyes, but sometimes my eyes hurt when looking at them.
I recently took my mothing set up to West Papua and was able to set up in the middle of the jungle away from any power source because of the portability, a huge advantage.

Having said all that, I would like to explore alternatives too. But I think being portable is a must for me.


Polycarbonate (the usual material for eyeglasses) will stop UV, so most full time wear corrective lenses are good enough, but if you don’t wear glasses you would want a pair of safety glasses (basically any will do). I keep cheap safety glasses around to hand out to my children and any bystanders.

My rough understanding is that the risk is sunburning your retinas - a handheld UV light isn’t putting out as much UV as the sun, but it’s also not triggering your pupil contraction reflexes, so you’re potentially getting a large dose due to your eyes being dilated, if you stare at the light source in an otherwise dark environment. The irritation and inflammation will heal but it also deals some cumulative damage.