Thursday, 25 July 2013


Finally, I've found the time to deploy my new toy!...Yes!...the moth trap has, at last, been put to use! (twice)..but, as you'll notice from the blog title, my first foray into the world of moth traps and mothing didn't go as smoothly as expected!!

The first night I set the trap up and turned the light on at around 10pm. It was a warm night so the excitement and expectations of a good catch were high, in fact the excitement was so high that I barely slept and was up and out at first light (4.45am!) to see what delights awaited.
Well, there were moths the trap, on the trap even on the sheet I'd placed under the trap! Then it suddenly dawned on me; what am I going to do with all these moths?  It hadn't occurred to me that I needed a container to store each individual moth in prior to photographing them.

So it was into the kitchen and a rummage (quietly, as my wife was still upstairs in the land of nod  and wouldn't have been best pleased if I'd  woken her up three hours 'early'!) through the cupboards for any sort of plastic container, pot, cup or tin...and the lids (why are lids not stored in the same place as their partners??)

Two forms of the same moth

So, back outside with my varied collection of containers and it's time to 'round up' the moths! problem!...night flying moths, they're lethargic and sleepy during the day, should be easy just to scoop them up into the containers and pop on the lid, right?...Wrong!!  Keeping in mind that we are experiencing the hottest spell of weather that we've had for the last 30 years or so and even at this early hour the temperature was starting to rise and the moths on the outside of the trap were not a bit 'sleepy'.. one touch and they were gone!  I did, with a little stealth, manage to capture a couple of the slower ones.  Now, pre-prepared that it might be tricky, it was time to tackle the ones inside the trap, I counted, through the plastic baffles, at least 35 visible moths and assumed that there would be more 'hiding' in the egg boxes that I'd placed in the bottom of the trap. I slowly slid out one of the baffles and WHOOSH! 90% of the visible ones had also gone!  Hmmm!..not going well! I slowly lifted out the first egg box and to my surprise clinging to it were four or five largish moths, now another problem arose do I try getting them into the containers or do I photograph them in situ? at least if I photographed them now I would have some sort of record! I decided to opt for the latter and tried to place the egg box in a favourable position for the best light and view. That done I now proceeded to try and get the moths into the containers...I'd read that if you hold the container under the moth and give the object that it's resting on a sharp tap the moth will fall off into the container...yeh, it worked fine, for the ONE moth over the container all the others clinging to the egg box had nothing to drop into and were... GONE!  And they don't need to fly..the ones that dropped to the floor turned into winged race horses and promptly galloped off to the nearest cover!

This one 'posed'

In the end I managed to 'capture' about 25 different moths, some of them medium sized macros and some smaller micro moths.

Now the next problem arose...How to get some 'proper' photos?  As the sun was now well and truly up, and the light was good, I decided to set up some different 'props' around the garden. Good idea? not really!...the first moth I tried to 'tap' out of its pot just flew away! The next good idea(!) was to coax the moth out of the pot by getting it to cling to a small paint brush and then transferring it to a suitable position for a photograph!...this worked apart from the time it took for me to put down the container and brush and to pick up the camera far outweighed to attention span of the moth and...yeh! flew away!!

To add insult to injury my wife was now up, ready and off to work, but not before she'd had a good laugh at the sight of me trying to get an uninterested bunch of moths to pose for their pictures!  I'd read that if you put the moth filled containers in the fridge for a while it does them no harm, but cools them down and makes them docile and easier to 'work' with!

So, with the fridge loaded it was time for a cup of tea, some breakfast and a rethink.

Suitably the moths! I thought perhaps indoors would be a better place to take the photos, there was good light in the kitchen...right next to the fridge..perfect!...uhmmm...what do we do when we're cold?..we shiver! What does a moth do when it's cold and fresh out of the fridge? it shivers!! to be more precise it vibrates it's wings to warm up the flies away!!

Another one that 'posed' properly!

With some perseverance  I did manage to get some, just passable, record shots. The only downside was that I now had a house full of moths, on the ceilings and hunkering down into the folds at the top of the curtains!... Who'd have thought to shut the kitchen door? took me quite a few minutes rounding them up and getting them back into the containers.

The second time that I put out the trap I was a little more prepared, I'd been out and bought loads of small plastic pots (and lids!)  the problem this time was that I'd not taken into consideration that it was the night before a full moon and the night sky was crystal clear with a bright shiny moon competing with my puny little 40 watt bulb so I only 'caught' about 20 moths. as the morning was a bit cooler I did manage to have more time to quickly snap the moth's before they made their getaway!  again though only meagre record shots!

The next big problem was IDing  all the moths that I'd managed to photograph... using my trusty reference book and the internet this took a lot, lot longer than I thought it would!  Have you noticed that the subjects pictured in the reference books look nothing like the subjects in the images that you've taken?

So, lots of mistakes made, lots of lessons learned and lots of problems to solve, mainly how to set up the moths and backgrounds for a decent photograph! (Any ideas welcomed!)  Did I enjoy it? bet I did!..I've seen around  35 different moths that I would probably never have seen otherwise and there's a possibility of seeing many more.

 Time will tell!


douglas mcfarlane said...

Trevor if my webcam worked you'd see me rolling around the floor in fits of laughter.
I'm glad you managed some images, I liked them all, especially the Swallow Tail moth, look forward to your next venture with the moth trap!

ADRIAN said...

This is just brilliant. I can see you having hours of entertainment.
It doesn't go ZZZZZ! like the one in the chipy then.
What make is the trap?

The Herald said...

Douglas, I'm glad you were able to see the funny side of what was a very serious situation!...oh!..alright then, I suppose it was quite funny really!

Yeh, the Swallow Tail was a good 'catch', just a shame it was damaged.

I hope I get more organised for next time!...[;o)

The Herald said...

Adrian, it has potential to be a very interesting, but a rather time consuming, experience!

Ahh shit! mean I've bought the wrong type? I guess it would help with the 'flying away' problem though!

I bought it from Watkins and Doncaster... they do all sorts of different models....[;o)

Bob Bushell said...

Cor, it looks like you've found something new. Great news and brilliant photos.

Frank said...

I had a chuckle .. the 'thief' ferreting around the kitchen in the wee small hours .. lol.

Anyway the results were good Trevor.

I found some good tips here:

Roy Norris said...

After all that you did get a nice collection.
Look, the ladies have a certain way of storing things in the kitchen, its a system they use. ??
Getting up at 4-45am, its surprising what gets us excited nowadays Trevor.{:)))

Margaret Adamson said...

Hi Trevor

That was hilarious reading and my sides are sore!! Best bit of blog reading since I started 4 months ago.
I can just imagine your wife's face when she saw what was happening! Bet she was glad she was going to work. Anyhow, the photos that you did take are very good. I think my favorite would be Lacky at present. What are the number on the photos for?

holdingmoments said...

Trev, excellent post. You get it all sorted, and then I'll get my trap. lol
Certainly a great challenge, but something I want to have a go at. Brilliant.

ADRIAN said...

Trevor, would a blob of honey help to keep them in the frame?
I should have said that I like the coloured mats you used for the background.

The Herald said...

Thank you Bob...[;o)

Thanks Frank. Yeh, the consequences could have been quite severe, had I been 'caught'
Thanks for the link it was very informative reading..lots of ideas to try now!...[;o)

Thank you Roy. Yeh, it's a mysterious place is the kitchen!! Early mornings are the best time of the day Roy, the late risers don't know what they're missing...[;o)

Thank you Margaret I'm glad you enjoyed the read. My better half has learned, over the years, to accept my 'strange behaviour', nothing really surprises her anymore!!
The numbers...are the numbers from the Bradley Checklist of Lepidoptera Recorded from the British Isles. which assigns a number to each species of moth and butterfly ever recorded in Britain. the list is continually updated with new arrivals (migrants or imports) More info here (I hope this link works!!)...[;o)

Thanks Keith. I don't know if I will ever get it sorted, the moths seem to have had the upper hand so far! It's proving to be very interesting if rather time consuming though!...[;o)

The Herald said...

Adrian, I did think that something like that might work, but the problem is getting them from the trap/pot to the 'set' before they decide to fly off!

I'm afraid that for the most part the backgrounds were of their own choosing!! the curtains, cushions, the side of the shed, garden bench, fridge door...get the picture?!...[;o)

Maria said...

This is amazing. This happened with the small frog I caught recently. Have you thought of having some sort of big box ready to have them pose in there so they don't escape so easily?

The Herald said...

Thanks Maria, wildlife never behaves as it should, does it?
I've been thinking along those lines myself, I'll have to get my handyman head on and see what I can come up with!...[;o)

Heather Wilde said...

Oh Trevor, this is one of the best blogs I have ready in ages, I am so sorry, but I had tears rolling down my face laughing. Think this will be the boys bedtime story tonight. We went through all this on our first go, but we had pots for them. Every first time moth-er needs to read this before they start. xx

The Herald said...

Thanks Heather, I'm glad that it's not just me that can be outwitted by a humble band of moths!! I've put the trap out a couple of times since but I'm still having problems getting the moths to 'stay' (it works for dogs!!)
Given that there's a few thousand to 'find' I guess that if I persevere for long enough (I might run out of years though!!)by the law of averages I should get a record shot of most of them!!...[;o)

Harley Wilde said...

That was a bit of a disaster with know pots. I like the swallow tail.

The Herald said...

It was a disaster from start to finish Harley! Really good fun though...[;o)

Andrew Fulton said...

A wonderful post Trevor... and you captured superb images of the ones that didn't escape.

The Herald said...

Thanks Andrew...[;o)

Ramakant Pradhan said...

Had a good time reading of your adventure, if I may say so. I have never tried photographing insects but I am starting to get some ideas :)

The Herald said...

Ramakant, I'm glad you enjoyed the read. You should give it a's fun!...[;o)

grammie g said...

Hi Trevor...I thought I would never get back here to comment, I just cant seem to get with the program theses day's, and after seeing the blog headlines in the reading list I knew there would be a good tale about your moth trap!! ; )
All your unpreparedness and experiments with photographing have payed off for "stunning shot's" of the night flyers!!
Love the lay out backgrounds, they really work well, I just love the Swallow-tailed,and the Riband Wave!!
The Lacky looks like one we have but has more of a pink and yellowish tone !!
Those ones that blend in with the bark and wood are amazing too, darn you have me going now i will be out there at night, and the neighbors will be calling the cops if I use a flash! hahaha!!

Well my kitchen draws are not organized like that, a real mishmash of plastic containers,and covers all together, !! I was like that though , a neat freak, cleaning fruitcake , obsessive compulsive person...well things have changed, there are more important things to do!! : ) especially since the divorce makes you think about all these thing I did that wasn't what I wanted to do...he did me a favor hee-hee!


Sharon Whitley said...

A great post, very funny, sounds frustrating but fun at the same time and sure you'll soon get the hang of it - oh and containers and lids are like socks - can never find a pair that go together!

The Herald said...

Hi Grace...I'm glad you enjoyed the tale and the images. I've found my adventures with the 'trap' very interesting so far!...I've learned lots about the moths (and how to 'tame' them!) and have really enjoyed doing something different. You should give it a go

As for the kitchen?...just a place of mystery, I'm afraid..organised disorganisation it's called!!

It's good to know that you're enjoying your 'freedom'!...[;o)

The Herald said...

Thanks Sharon. Yeh, it's great fun, if a little chaotic at times!!...[;o)

Roy Norris said...

Trevor, you mentioned on Margaret's post about Bees ID.
Hope this link below helps you.

The Herald said...

Thanks for that Roy, looks like lots of info to digest, I'll give it a go!...[;o)