moths are great! (Julie Stoneman)

Welfare, health and safety


Moth recording is a safe and very enjoyable hobby. However, there are a few health and safety matters that you should consider if you are using electric moth traps. These include:

  • check that all electrical equipment is in good working order and waterproof.
  • avoid looking directly at bright lights (e.g. MV bulbs) on moth traps.
  • some moth trap bulbs become very hot and should not be touched. On rare occasions bulbs may crack if they are damaged or if rain falls on a hot bulb. We recommend the use of a bulb guard and rain guard.
  • light also attracts biting and stinging insects such as mosquitoes, midges, hornets, wasps and bees.

In addition, the caterpillars, larval nests and pupal cocoons of a small number of moth species have hairs and spines that can cause severe irritation to human skin, eyes and respiratory systems (e.g. inducing asthma). Examples include the Yellow-tail, Brown-tail, Vapourer, Pale Tussock, Small Eggar, Garden Tiger, White Ermine and Buff Ermine. It is sensible not to handle any hairy or spiny caterpillars.

Moths and their caterpillars are wild animals and, as such, should be treated with respect. Moth traps and other ways to find moths are humane and need not cause harm to moths if care is taken. For example:

  • Ensure that the moth trap is not left in full sun.
  • Avoid touching moths' wings directly as you can easily damage them.
  • Put moths in dry clear plastic or glass containers for close inspection.
  • To dislodge moths into containers, give whatever they are resting on a sharp tap, or gently lift each moth from underneath onto a pencil.
  • Only put one moth in a container and check that it can move around freely.
  • If moths are very active in containers, put them in a fridge or cool box for a short time to calm them.
  • Moths can be kept for a day or two in a container in the fridge while you identify them.
  • Release moths in thick or long vegetation, ideally at dusk.
  • To avoid birds learning to come and eat moths where you have attracted or released them check your trap at dawn (or cover the trap with a sheet at dawn), discourage birds by using a plastic snake or owl and regularly change your moth release site.

Butterfly Conservation endorses the Code of Conduct on Collecting Insects