What is a moth trap? asked Karolyn Cooper. Well it isn’t the longest running play in the world. Very few people know that Dame Agatha originally intended to call her magnum opus The Moth Trap. Why she changed her mind we’ll never know. Perhaps it was because the answer would have been far too obvious. The lepidopterist dunnit. Not much of a plot there then.
Essentially a moth trap is a light and a container. The idea is that the moths are attracted to a light and then descend into the container which is designed to make it difficult for them to escape. Later on a bleary-eyed moth-er comes along, inspects the catch, records what is there and probably photographs anything interesting. Then the moths are released.
The overnight stay is typically ‘cushioned’ by a collection of egg cartons, on which the moths will doze the night away.
The containers come in 3 common forms – the biscuit tin (a Heath Trap), a small tea crate (a Skinner Trap) and a strong plastic bowl (a Robinson Trap). The lights are normally either blue actinic cold tubes or hot white mercury vapour lamps. The wattage is anything from say 15w on a Heath Trap to 125w on a Robinson Trap. Combinations vary. Robo-traps are acknowledged as having the greatest pulling power, akin to a Porsche 911 in the 1970s. Heath Traps may catch things but are better for storing biscuits.
The trap can be mains powered or a generator for sorties into the field. Here is a recent photo of my Skinner Trap at the Lodge – using 2x 30w actinic tubes. Inside the magic box are 2 perspex sheets, which are sloping downwards to encourage the moths into the lower confines. It is easy to get through the narrow gap between them but more difficult to get out. This trap is plugged into an external socket and left overnight in the garden. They work better in the dark.There are other ways of attracting moths. You can simply hang a light over a white sheet. It can be very effective. Here we see 2 eminent lepidopterists and an enthusiast admiring recent arrivals. Dr. Kendrick is probably drinking San Mig despite the Sprite can. Beer makes moth-ing more convivial – wine can be used as an alternative. There is no etiquette when it comes to passing the time away. You drink what you can get. The gentleman standing is an internationally renowned lawyer, with whom I have worked several times. The Law is a good way of funding a dangerously expensive moth habit. The middle man runs a hedge fund and is a serious philanthropist. The problem with moth trapping is that the lights are by definition bright. Curmudgeonly neighbours occasionally whinge about the 125w MV lamps illuminating their nocturnal domain. You can try to position it to reduce the problem and in extremis you can buy black lamps. They of course reduce the catch. My solution was to buy an acre of garden, which is not overlooked. There are cheaper alternatives but why skimp when moths are involved?
I hope this has been useful and if you have any questions (on topic only, please) do leave them in the comments box.