This post is for those who would like to trap moths and discover what is flying at night when they are safe in bed. If moths give you the heebie-jeebies then skip this post!
I am sure there are other ways of doing it, with other equipment, but I am just sharing my own experience for those who are curious.
I have been trapping for about 12 years on a regular basis. I had been out with other naturalists many years ago in Wales, but it wasn’t until my husband bought me a trap for a present that I started in earnest.
First thing you need is a moth trap.
https://www.watdon.co.uk/ Watkins and Doncaster provided Charles Darwin with his equipment. They send across the world and they know what they are doing. I recommend their basic plastic bucket trap to start with and two bulbs (in case you smash one!).
All a trap is, is a UV light bulb which attracts the moths, above a plastic funnel. The moths then fall down into the bucket below, where they perch on cardboard egg boxes in safety for the night.
The next morning you switch off the light, open the trap gently and carefully remove each egg box one by one. You then photograph the moths (in case they fly off!) and then try to identify them using a good guide book.
I use British Moths by Chris Manley published by Bloomsbury. I have not found a similar single volume guide for France. I am certain there are excellent guides for where you live. There are also some excellent free on line identification sites. I use https://ukmoths.org.uk/systematic-list/ and also http://montgomeryshiremoths.org.uk/ which is very good for showing what is around at the right time of year.
You make a note of the weather and date and keep a list of what you find in English and or Latin. I tick off all the species that I have confidently identified in my guide book, so that I can find them again more easily. I later send my list and photos to my local naturalist organisation, https://faune-alsace.org so that my records can be compared with others, but you can skip this bit!
That is the bare bones and I am aware that it sounds unutterably dull and nerdy. The reason for doing it is because you get to see the most wonderful creatures with your own eyes, while drinking a cup of tea on the back step of your own home and that takes some beating as a wildlife experience. I have been lucky enough to live in Zambia and to spend months on safari, I have lived in Costa Rica for four years and in Brazil for two and spent as much time as possible in the forests, rivers and oceans, seeing wildlife that most people only see on David Attenborough tv programmes and yet I have never enjoyed wildlife in such comfort, or been so amazed on a daily basis as I have been when moth trapping in my own back garden!
- It takes a long time to learn the common moths that you will encounter on your patch. It has taken me 10 years to be confident with the common moths and even then I make mistakes. There are a lots of moths and many of them look the same!!!
2. Start by identifying the ones with clear colours or markings. Leave the dull ones until much later. There is no shame in being confused. If the guide book says the moth that you have spent hours identifying is very rare in your area, then you probably have made a mistake.
3. Keep your moths cool. If it is warm and the trap has been left in the sun before you open it, then they will all fly away before you identify them. Move your trap into the coolest shade you can and let them settle before taking out the boxes. If you do this, you do not need to put them in collecting jars to look at. They will sit happily on the egg box while you admire them.
4. Take a photo on your phone or camera, so you can look back at them and identify them when you have time. This final phase often requires a glass of chilled wine and a sofa!
5. Let the moths fly off when they want to, or shake onto a bush. My cats used to try to eat them, but now treat them with feline disdain.
1. UV light and plastic funnel.
2. Box containing old egg boxes and electrical connection.
3. Lead to mains or to a big battery if you want to set up the trap in a remote place.
4. Identification guide.