The earlier pictures were taken on my wee compact Canon ixus 970IS, which involved sneaking up on the butterflies. This can be very frustrating when they fly off, but very rewarding when they don't!

Since 2012 I have been using a Panasonic Lumix FZ150, which allows me to zoom in to the butterflies from a couple of metres away.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Garden Moth Trap

I have been having fun with the moth trap that I have been lent to help determine what moths occur in this part of Scotland.

I have set it running six times in the last two months and it is interesting to see the different species that seem to occur each time.

The first time I tried it was on the 5th April and I only caught three moths, all the same species, the Hebrew Character, Orthosia gothica.
Hebrew Character

Three weeks later we had appropriate weather to use the trap again. This time I caught three species, a Hebrew Character, and two new species, a Common Quaker, Orthosia cerasi, and a very similar-looking Small Quaker, Orthosia cruda
Common Quaker
After another three weeks, I tried again on 19th May and I caught nine species. All of them brown, but at least slightly different browns!
Lunar Thorn, Selenia lunularia

Small Phoenix, Ecliptopera silaceata

Now I was starting to get more excited!

The next time I put the trap out was on 27th April and this time I caught 11 species, and seven of them were new. There were also some really exciting species among them. I had put the trap down by the house, which is painted white, and I think the reflected light helped to attract more moths. Some of them were on the wall of the house in the morning.

I love these White Ermines, Spilosoma lubricipeda

These Poplar Hawkmoths, Laothoe populi, are enormous. They are at least three inches across. I have never seen one of these flying around or attracted to a light, so I was surprised to find two in the trap.

As well as these, I saw a lovely Brimstone Moth. These are a lovely yellow, but sadly it flew away before I could take a photograph.

On the 9th of June I only caught eight species, but there were some interesting moths among them.
I love the mottled pattern on this little Foxglove Pug, Eupithecia pulchellata.

Green Silver-lines, Pseudoips prasinana.
The moth trap runs off mains electricity, but I was also given a battery and adapter, so that I can take it out into the countryside to see what I can catch there. Last week I thought I should try it out in the garden running off the battery to make sure it worked. This time I caught seven different species. I am not sure if this was because the light wasn't quite so bright, or if it was because there was quite a lot of rain in the night. However, there were five new species for me among them.
Bordered White, Bapalus piniaria.

Elephant Hawkmoth, Deilephila elpenor.
Once I have photographed each moth and noted them down I put them somewhere safe, so that the next evening they can fly off and live their lives unscathed. I have noticed that some of the garden birds have been taking an interest in what I am up to, so I am taking extra care to make sure the moths are hidden away from them!

Each time I put the trap out I have caught some new species and so far it has been quite a gentle learning curve. I can't take credit for being able to identify them all, and I regularly send pictures to Mark, who lent me the trap, for him to help me with the identification.

On Saturday evening I took the moth trap to a local farm where the farmer has a great interest in wildlife. He has planted hedges, dug ponds, improved woodlands, put up bird boxes and left a grassy margin around each field, all to benefit the local birds and other wildlife. I will have to leave what I caught until my next post.


  1. Nick, you must be so excited to finally see these specimens up close. Also, they look so healthy and intact. This must be a thrill for you! You even got an Elephant Hawkmoth, and the White Ermines are lovely. I suppose the best time to release them would be at night when the birds are asleep, wouldn't it be?

    1. Maria, the more I do it the more I enjoy it!! My wife thinks I am mad! I tried leaving the moths inside a shed earlier in the year when the garden was bare, but now that there are more plants, I think it is better to put them in among the foliage. I think that would be where they would go if they hadn't been attracted to the trap.

  2. So many beautiful moths! I'm quite surprised by what turned up in the trap, especially so for the hawkmoths. How exciting. I can't wait to see what the trap attracted in the farm!

    1. There are certainly a lot more moths here than butterflies. Strange that I don't really notice that many flying around at night in the car headlights or attracted to the windows. I have never seen any of the larger species other than in the trap. There wasn't anything too spectacular in the trap at the farm, but there were a lot of moths in it. It took me most of the next day to identify them all!! I am going to put the trap out on the farm again tonight.

  3. Oh you got some nice ones there. We also have the hawksmoth and they are beautiful too though maybe not the same as yours. Have you seen their larvae? They are so beautiful and colorful, i've seen pink-purple, yellow to orange, brown and of course the most common green. Then i learned some of them change color through their life cycles. They are really interesting. But i am sure you will find my new hobby more interesting too, come and see for yourself, haha!

    1. Hi Andrea,
      Yes, I have found Elephant Hawkmoth larvae, but they are rather ugly!! Moths do seem to be very variable and quite a challenge to identify! Don't tell me, your new hobby revolves around Hoyas?!!

  4. Hello Nick!:) Thank you for your very kind comment. I was speechles after seeing all these beautiful moths. Now I want a moth trap!:) In the meantime I am going to learn so much about moths, and your IDs will be invaluable.What an exciting time for you, and a pleasure for me to see such great captures.

    1. I wasn't really into moths before I started using the trap. Now I find them intriguing, but it is very time consuming trying to identify them!