moths are great! (Julie Stoneman)

Rothamsted Insect Survey


In addition to information from the National Moth Recording Scheme, we are very fortunate to have another long-standing source of data on the fortunes of the UK’s moths. Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire, the world’s oldest agricultural research station, has been co-ordinating a national network of moth light-traps since 1968.

Download the latest Light-trap Newsletter 2011.

All the traps are of a standard design, making direct comparison possible between sites and over time. The traps operate every night of the year and all moths are identified and counted. Rothamsted traps catch small but representative numbers of moths, which ensures that the monitoring is effective without damaging the moth populations being studied.

Rothamsted light-trap (Rothamsted Research)Since 1968, traps have been operated by volunteers at over 430 sites in all sorts of habitats from the coast to upland moor, from woodland to private gardens, with about 85 traps running each year. Through all these years of painstaking work capturing and identifying moths, the Rothamsted Insect Survey has generated one of the longest-running and geographically extensive data sets on insect populations anywhere in the world. There are over 10 million moth records in the Rothamsted database, some dating back to the 1930s when the first traps were developed.

In 2003, Butterfly Conservation and Rothamsted Research launched a collaborative project to examine this important data set and develop the first national population trends for individual moth species.

This work yielded very important results showing the decline of common and widespread moths in Britain, summarised in The State of Britain’s Larger Moths report and various scientific papers.

If you would like more details about becoming part of this long-running and nationally important monitoring scheme, please contact Chris Shortall at Rothamsted Research (01582 763133 extension 2466).