Buying a Moth Trap
I can’t claim to be an expert in the world of Moth trapping and moth traps, but I’m keen to get started and have been doing some research into the best traps to get so thought I’d share my findings here. Hopefully it will be of use to people in the same position as me who would like to start moth trapping but don’t know which moth trap would be the best to get.
As a beginner I’m guessing that like me you don’t want to spend too much money on a moth trap. Afterall you don’t know if you’ll get into it properly so minimal outlay would be ideal. In basic terms a moth trap is simply a bright light that attracts the moths, attached to a box that the moths enter but have difficulty in getting out of. It isn’t anything more sophisticated than that but there are various designs.
The main designs are the Robinson, the Skinner and the Heath traps.
Probably the cheapest solution is to make your own, but there are some ready-made versions available that are pretty competitive too.
The light is used to attract moths. To a certain extent, bigger and brighter is better as a brighter light will be seen from further away and will therefore attract more moths. In theory this should give you a better catch rate and therefore increase the number of species too.
It isn’t true that different types of light attract different species. Each light should attract the same range of species, but if your light can be seen from further afield you may be attracting moths from slightly different habitats with a brighter light and therefore attracting a wider range of species.
However, there are certain downsides to the bigger, brighter lights. They are more expensive to buy and just as importantly more expensive to run. They may not use lots of electricity but if you are running a moth trap all night every night then it all adds up. Also, as potential moth trappers I’m sure you are trying to be as environmentally friendly as possible, so using a moth trap that uses less energy has to be a good thing.
Secondly, the brighter lights may annoy neighbours, especially in built up areas whereas a less bright light will be less intrusive.
The two main types of bulbs used are Mercury Vapour (MV) bulbs and Actinic bulbs.
The MV bulbs (usually 125W) have a good catch rate but are extremely bright, making them less suitable for built-up areas or situations where there will be people around. It is also a hot bulb which needs protection from rain and requires a 240V, mains or generator power source.
Actinic Tubes come in a variety of powers (e.g. 6, 8, 15, 22 and 40w). They have a lower catch rate due to the lower wattage, but the relatively low visible light emission makes it good for garden or educational use. It is a cold bulb that doesn’t require protection from light rain. It can be run from the mains, a generator, or 12V battery.
The catch box sits under the light and should allow moths to enter easily but not escape. The expensive ‘Robinson’ traps retain moths better than the Skinner or Heath traps which may allow some moths to escape.
Again, in an ideal world it is a case of the bigger the better. A bigger trap will allow more moths to be safely and comfortably trapped. However there are certain restrictions. Larger traps are more expensive to buy or build and less portable.
Other things to bear in mind when choosing the best combination of light and box are that certain traps are designed to be used with certain lights so you should make sure the combination you choose will work in conjunction with each other.
Biggest and brightest isn’t always the best. A large trap with a powerful lamp will attract and catch more moths, but all of the moth traps attract the same range of species. It will take time to go through and identify the moths you catch, especially when starting out, so having fewer moths to identify each morning may not be a bad thing. A smaller trap with a less bright light will be less expensive to buy, less expensive to run, less intrusive and more manageable.
Buying a ready made moth trap
Considering that all moth traps really are is a box and a light, then most of the the ready made ones are pretty expensive. At the time of writing, a Robinson Trap complete with 125W MV lamp and electrics will set you back close to £300. A Skinner Trap is much cheaper at around £150 with a 15W Actinic lamp. A small Heath Trap with a 6W Actinic bulb is a little less expensive at around £115. There are some slightly cheaper alternatives that I’ll mention in a bit.
Building your own moth trap
The Skinner traps are the best types to make as DIY projects and a plan can be found here:
You will still need to buy the electrics and make sure that they are properly wired and set up for use outdoors. Building your own could be the cheapest option, but only just.
My Ideal Moth Trap
I’ve decided against the DIY solution though for a couple of reasons. First I’ll probably never get around to it, and secondly by the time I’d bought the materials and the electrical components I’d probably be looking at around £60. Much cheaper than the ‘proper’ manufactured traps, but I have found a very competitive alternative. The ‘Gladiator’ moth trap. (http://www.pwbelg.clara.net/mercury/gladiator/index.html).
These seem to be made by an enthusiast (Paul Batty) so have a home-made look to them but are supplied ready made and ready to go. The Gladiator has a 22W Actinic bulb (that should be plenty for my requirements), attached to plastic trap with a funnel that allows the moths to enter the trap but not easily escape. It comes complete with a waterproof choke housing and 10m lead, ready to run from a mains supply at a cost of £65.
I haven’t bought it yet, I shall e-mail Paul first, but this looks like the best option for me, and I’ll post here once I’ve got it up and running.