Elephant Hawk-moth (Robert Thompson)

Finding moths


Even a small urban garden may have over a hundred different species of moths! There will be many more species in larger gardens and those with native trees in them or nearby. If you want to know which species are living in your garden there are simple ways to find moths, including fun things for children to try.

Peach Blossom (Robert Thompson)Everyone knows moths are attracted to lights at night, so after dusk:

  • leave on an outside light (low energy bulbs work just as well);
  • open your curtains with a light on and see what lands on the window pane (this works even if you don't have a garden!)
  • leave the bathroom window open with a light on for a few hours before you go to bed and see what comes in (it's best to keep the door shut);
  • hang a white sheet in the garden and leave a strong torch shining on it.

Did you know that many moths also come to flowers to feed on nectar?

  • go out with a torch to look for moths feeding on flowers at dusk;
  • mix fizzy drink with treacle to make artificial nectar and paint this 'sugar' on tree trunks or fence posts at dusk (children will love doing this).

Sugaring (Steve Foster)Some moths fly around in the day and are mistaken for butterflies, so

  • look in the daytime too - a net can be useful!

You should avoid handling the moths. It is useful to have small containers to put them in while you identify them - transparent pots or jam jars are ideal. Be sure to release them as soon as you have identified them.

You can download more information on finding moths (including the nectar recipe). The best way to see lots of moths is to run a specially designed trap which uses light to catch them (but doesn't harm them). These are available from commercial suppliers or can be home-made. To find out more about moth recording, use the links on the left.

Download the How to start "mothing" factsheet.