Find out about UK moths for Moth Night

Yellow-tail moth northeastwildlife.co.uk
Will you spot a yellow-tail moth this Moth Night? (Photo: northeastwildlife.co.uk)

Lots of people think that butterflies are brightly coloured and beautiful, while moths are just brown and boring. But nothing could be further from the truth! Join in with Moth Night and learn more about these amazing creatures.

Types of moth

We have around 2,500 types of moth in the UK and they come in all sorts of colours, patterns and shapes. For example, there’s the elephant hawk-moth, which is pink and olive green (it got its name because, at the caterpillar life stage, it looks a bit like an elephant’s trunk). The death’s-head hawk-moth has a skull-like marking on its back, and the Chinese character moth has a cunning plan to avoid being eaten by birds – it’s evolved to look like a lump of bird poo!

Get ‘mothing’

Unlike butterflies, most moths fly at night. You can hunt for them in your garden, or any green space (make sure you take a grown-up with you if you’re wandering around outside after dark). It’s best to choose a cloudy and still night – there won’t be many moths out and about if it’s windy.

Shine a light

Many moths are attracted to light and a good way to see them is to hang a white sheet over a clothes line or bush, shine a torch on it and wait for them to arrive. Lots of them feed on nectar from flowering plants, so another option is to use your torch to inspect the flowers in your garden.

If you don’t want to go outside, you can just turn on a light, open the curtains and see what moths appear at your window.

What do moths eat?

Moths have a very sweet tooth so they’ll make a beeline for this sugary treat. You will need:

  • 500ml of cola (dark beer works well too!)
  • 1kg dark brown sugar
  • a small tin of black treacle

1. Put the cola or beer in a large pan and heat until it’s simmering (ask a grown-up to help you with this).

2. Add the brown sugar and treacle, and keep stirring until it has all dissolved.

3. Let the mixture cool.

4. Use a paint brush to paint a little bit of it on fence posts at eye level and wait for the hungry moths to appear. Be careful not to paint over any moss or lichen, and remember not to lean on it as it can stain your clothes.

Moth identification

Moth wings are very delicate so don’t touch them or you could injure the moth. Use a magnifying glass to take a closer look, or take a picture before it flies away. Check out our night-flying moth ID sheet and identify them.

Why not check out the Moth Night organised events to see if there’s something happening near you?

And if you get some great moth pictures, don’t forget to share them on our Facebook page, or on Twitter and Instagram using #NatureDetectives.

Which moths have you spotted?

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