Gardening with Children

School Zone

During the Summer Holidays why not explore the night sky

Date Posted: 01 August 2012

Have you ever wondered what flies around during the night when you are asleep?

The most obvious answer is bats and owls, but they also share the night sky with thousands of moths.

In the UK there are over 2,500 species of moths, they come in a huge range of shapes, sizes and colours and a lot of them are absolutely stunning, it is a shame that they go unnoticed in the dark. Some have markings on their wings to scare away their predators whilst some are marked like their habitat to provide camouflage.
Elephant Hawk Moth
If you want the chance to have a look at these secretive insects

why not make a moth trap

Moths can be found almost anywhere, in gardens, urban parks, on waste ground, in the cities and in the countryside, but the best place to start looking is in your back garden. Moths are about all year long, most species are active in summer. The best nights to look for them or set your moth trap are on warm, cloudy, moonless nights when it is not raining or windy.
Setting up your trap
  1. Hang a white sheet over a wall or fence, behind the sheet hang a bright torch or position one in front so that it is pointing at the sheet.
  2. Get a large cardboard box and cut off the flaps on the two shortest sides on the top of the box.
  3. Place some cardboard egg boxes around the sides inside the box, the moths will rest on these.
  4. Position your box below the white sheet.
  5. When it has gone dark, place an upturned bright torch or battery powered bright lantern in the bottom of the box and fold over the remaining two flaps inwards to make a valley leaving a 3cm wide slit for the light to shine through, you may need to apply some adhesive tape to hold the flaps in position, switch on the torch behind/shining on the sheet.
  6. Leave the torches on for 2 hours or overnight, moths will be attracted to the lights and drop into the box.
  7. After 2 hours or in the morning, as soon as you can, have a look in the box to see what you have caught, it is worth getting a good book on moth species to help you to identify them as a lot of them are similar in appearance, have a look at for identification guides. Avoid touching the moths directly as you can easily damage them.
  8. When you have finished studying them release the moths out of sight of birds in long grass or thick vegetation by tapping the back of the egg boxes or by gently lifting each moth from underneath with a pencil. You may see some of the moths fluttering their wings; they are warming up before flying.
  9. Write your moths down in a book/wildlife diary so that you can compare which moths are active at different times during the year.
  10. Take some photographs, especially the ones that you can't identify so that you can look them up later on.

Moths are more attracted to white light than yellow light you can often see them at night flying around street lights. Moths will settle on window panes or ledges if you leave an indoor light on and the curtains open but keep the windows closed or you may get a much closer look than you intend. Nobody knows exactly why moths are attracted to light but they think that they may confuse lights with the moon which they use to navigate in the dark.

Not all moths fly during the night many fly during the day and are sometimes mistaken for butterflies, bees or wasps. Moths are attracted to strong scented plants after dark which they pollinate these include Buddleia, Red Valerian, Heather, Ivy, Night-scented Stock, Sweet Rocket, Evening Primrose, Honeysuckle, Jasmine.
We set our moth trap at home as often as we can although on most nights the weather has been against us. This is a fascinating hobby which Thomas really enjoys, he can’t wait to see what is in the trap in the morning, he’s often still dressed in his pyjamas and slippers whilst scrutinising the egg boxes.
Have a look at the Moths Count website for more facts, photographs and information on moths, moth traps and local moth groups or public events.
The photographs on this page are all moths that we have caught in our moth trap at home, hover over the picture to show the type of moth.

Site By: Chamber Internet