Recording moths

Many people note down (‘record’) the observations that they make of wildlife in Devon and across the UK. These records can then be used by wildlife organisations and scientists to understand and protect species and habitats better.

Group of people gathered around a moth trap in the evening.

Members of Devon Moth Group during a moth trapping evening.

Observations of moths, whether actual moths or their eggs, caterpillars or pupae, in Devon can be passed to Devon Moth Group to form part of the county database. Anyone can do this – if you see a moth that you can identify, simply make a note of the date, location (a place name on a map and a grid reference), the name of the species and how many were seen and pass the information onto Devon Moth Group.

How to submit your moth sightings

There are several ways that you can record and send in your sightings: using a spreadsheet (preferably the specially created Devon Moth Lookup Table), using MapMate software or, if you do not have a computer, on paper. Full details and instructions.

Records should be sent to the County Recorder, Barry Henwood.

Why record moths?

Recording is the foundation for almost all efforts to protect wildlife: it is only possible to conserve something if we know where it is!

Devon Moth Group has gathered over 1 million sightings of moths from almost all parts of the county and spanning the past 150 years. These records show which moths have fared badly and these can then be targeted for conservation effort (see moth conservation). The records also show moths that are doing well, including some that have colonised Devon from other parts of England or from overseas.

The moth records gathered by Devon Moth Group are shared with the Devon Biodiversity Records Centre, Devon Wildlife Trust and other organisations, and also contribute to the National Moth Recording Scheme run by Butterfly Conservation.

So by noting down and passing on your sightings of moths, you can contribute directly to increasing knowledge and improving the conservation of these fascinating creatures.

Devon is a large county and there are many places for which we have few records, so there’s plenty of opportunity to fill in gaps in distribution maps at the same time as exploring our rich and varied landscapes.

Here you’ll find more information on the importance of moth recording.

How to find moths?

Skinner-type moth trap in a garden.

Most moths are active at night and can be attracted with a lamp.

Many moths and their caterpillars can be found during the day without any special equipment. However, the majority of species are nocturnal and people usually use light to attract moths. The lights inside and on the outside of your house will attract moths, but so-called ‘moth traps’ are the most effective means of seeing lots of different moth species. Moth traps use light to attract moths and then retain them harmlessly in a container of some sort. There are lots of different designs that can be purchased readymade or built at home.

A moth trap run overnight once a week or so in a Devon garden would probably attract at least 200 different sorts of moth over the course of a year – a great return for relatively little effort!’

Here you can find more information on how to find moths and on moth traps.