Photography and Collecting: Lures, Lights and Sheets
Nolie Schneider - ON

An ordinary lightbulb in an outdoor porch or wall lighting fixture will attract moths. On my first night of "serious" moth photography I took photos of 22 individual moths of 16 species. Later, I learned about special lights used to attract moths and some of them are shown here. The mercury-vapor light shown sitting on top of my air conditioner at the side of my house has attracted as many as 100 species of moths in one night. Nolie Schneider uses a "black light" and Dave Beadle an MV light in a live trap where the insects pass through a funnel into a large container below. These are then opened in the morning to see what has dropped in during the night. Collectors might use similar methods to gather insects into killing containers for later preparation as specimens in collections. Most photographers select and photograph desired specimens and then release them.

Dave Beadle - ON

Robert Patterson - MD


In the rightmost photo below you see Bob Belmont examining moths in his walk-in light trap behind his moth lab in Stanford, Florida. There is a funnel installed through the roof below the light fixture which combines MV and blacklights. The screened enclosure can be smaller or larger than shown here. I will later add a photo of one in my yard where the srceening encloses a space of 8 ft. x 8 ft. One advantage to this type of live trapping is that it avoids the possibility of moths being worn or crushed when beetles are the dominant insect being trapped. The enclosure can be opened to release all of the insects.

Robert Patterson - MD -- 05/11/2004

Robert Patterson -- MD -- 05/22/2004

Bob Belmont -- FL -- February 2005

One hazard for moth photography will not, at least at my house, recur again until 2021. That is the invasion of the Periodical Cicada that took place in 2004. In photos above you can see the abandoned pupal skins of cicadas that emerged mainly on the wood moldings surrounding my side door. Later, the adult cicadas were attracted to my lights during the last four nights of their adult existence. I had to use a broom to sweep them off the screen door before entering my work room (within which you can see my small photography room that I call the Moth Lounge.

Howard Byrne - AZ (courtesy of Bruce Walsh)
Robert Patterson - MD -- 05/22/2004

In Howard Byrne's photo from Arizona you can see the amazing abundance of moths that might be attracted, in a prime area, to a sheet arranged as a resting place near an MV light. With some cameras it is possible to photograph moths at rest on a sheet. My camera is not sufficiently capable for doing this, the coloration of the moths being substantially altered by either MV or blacklight. You can see such discoloration in my photo of a cicada night at my blacklighted sheet in my side yard. At the bottom of the photo you might be barely able to make out the 4-ft. fluorescent fixture and one of the blacklight tubes. To my eye the scene was quite different, but I could not adjust my camera to avoid what you see. Hence, I capture moths that I wish to photograph and take them indoors where I can control the lighting to my satisfaction. In the two photos below I was able to get decent photos by turning off the MV light and using the camera's flash. At left an adult cicada has just emerged from its pupal skin. At right is one that has finished "coloring up" and is about ready to fly away.

Robert Patterson - MD -- 05/11/2004

Robert Patterson - MD -- 05/11/2004

MothTalk/MothTalk023.htm -- 01/15/2007