The NHBS Guide to Moth Traps

Flatpack Skinner Moth Trap with Electrics
The Flatpack Skinner Moth Trap is made from FSC timber and is easy to assemble.

In this brief guide we will take a look at the main types and designs of moth traps. We will also address many of our most frequently asked questions, including why you will no longer find Mercury Vapour traps for sale at nhbs.com.

Robinson Moth Traps

Twin 30W Actinic Robinson Moth TrapRobinson Traps are the preferred choice amongst many serious entomologists because they offer the highest retention rates. On a very good night you may catch in excess of 500 moths. They tend to be more expensive that other types of trap, however, and they are quite large. They also cannot be collapsed down for storage or transport. The Robinson Trap is available with twin actinic bulbs and is powered by 240V mains electricity.

Skinner Moth Traps

Mobile 15W Actinic Skinner Moth TrapSkinner Moth Traps will attract a similar number of moths to Robinson Traps. However, they are less efficient at holding the catch. The main advantages of Skinner Traps are price and portability, and they also let you access your catch whilst the trap is running. Skinner Traps collapse down quickly and easily when not in use, making them very easy to store and transport. They are available with actinic electrics and can be provided with either 240V (mains powered) or 12V (battery powered) control panels. Lucent traps have a clever design with all components fitting neatly into a suitcase-style case.

Heath Moth Traps

6W 12V Portable Heath Moth TrapThe traditional Heath Moth Trap has a small actinic tube mounted vertically within three vanes that work together to attract and then deflect moths downwards into the holding chamber below. The traps are very lightweight and portable and are usually powered by a 12V battery, although mains powered traps are also available. Variations on the Heath Trap design include the “Plastic Bucket” model which allows the trap to be packed away and carried conveniently. Although catches from Heath Traps tend to be less than for Robinson and Skinner traps due to their lower wattage bulbs, their affordability and portability makes them a great choice for beginners or for use at remote sites.

Moth Collecting Tents

Moth Collecting TentMoth Collecting Tents provide a unique alternative to traditional style moth traps and are ideal for educational use or group trapping events. They consist of a large white fabric structure which is fitted with a UV light source. Moths which are attracted by the light settle on the white fabric and can be observed or collected for study. As the collecting area is large and accessible, it is easy for many individuals to view the specimens at the same time. However, tents and sheets do not have the same retention rates as traditional box-type traps.

Moth Trapping FAQs

What kind of trap is best for garden or educational use?
The design of the Skinner Trap means that you can access the catch without having to switch off the bulb. This is particularly useful if you are looking at your catch over the course of the evening, rather than leaving the trap all night and returning to it in the morning. Skinner Traps also have the added benefit of collapsing down, making them easier to store.

Which trap is best for unattended trapping?
The Robinson Trap is the only trap that will retain the whole catch after dawn. Some moths will escape from other trap designs.

Which trap is most portable?
Heath Traps are the smallest and easiest to transport. They can also run off a 12V battery, allowing them to be used in remote sites. The Safari and Ranger Moth Traps are the smallest and lightest traps we sell, so are ideal for travelling, however, they do require mains electricity (or a generator) to run.

Why can I no longer find Mercury Vapour traps on your website?
Mercury Vapour bulbs have recently been phased out as part of the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive. Therefore, we have removed the traps from our range and are now focusing on actinic replacements. If you have a Mercury Vapour trap and would like to convert it to run with actinic electrics, please get in touch with us to have a chat about this.

What are actinic bulbs?
Actinic bulbs produce a small amount of UV light alongside the visible light which makes them more “attractive” to moths. They are not as bright as Mercury Vapour bulbs but because they don’t get as hot they are much safer to use, particularly for public and attended trapping events. They are also much less of a disturbance to neighbours if you are using the trap in your garden.

What is the difference in catch rates between the different traps?
The Robinson Trap and Skinner Trap will attract a similar number of moths but the Robinson has the highest retention rate of the two. Heath Traps will retain fewer moths but will still attract the same range of species. You can therefore obtain similar results trapping for a longer period or over several nights in the same area.

Do different traps attract different species?
No, all traps using actinic electrics will attract the same range of species. However, species of macro-moth from different families have been shown to vary in the extent to which they are attracted to a light source. This means that care must be taken when estimating local abundance from the relative abundance of species in your trap as some species will be attracted from a wider area than others.

A full range of moth traps and other entomological equipment is available at www.nhbs.com

Butterfly Conservation shop finds a new home at NHBS

Butterfly Conservation and NHBS have recently launched the new Butterfly Conservation online shop in partnership. You can browse and buy from a fantastic range of books, gifts and equipment. Every sale raises funds to support conservation work to protect vulnerable butterflies and moths across the UK.

Butterfly Conservation shop at NHBS
The brand new Butterfly Conservation shop, hosted by NHBS

The popular Butterfly Conservation Christmas Cards are available now. Spread some festive cheer this Christmas and help protect butterflies and moths at the same time. All the cards are printed on FSC recycled card and are blank inside so you can add your own greeting.

Butterfly Conservation 2016 Christmas Cards
Butterfly Conservation 2016 Christmas Cards

About the Butterfly Conservation and NHBS partnership

Butterfly Conservation is the UK charity dedicated to saving butterflies and moths. Butterflies and moths are key indicators of the health of our environment. They connect us to nature and contribute to our wellbeing. With over 30 nature reserves across the United Kingdom, Butterfly Conservation works in many ways to conserve butterflies and moths and improve their habitats, creating a better environment for us all.

Butterfly Conservation:
“NHBS offer the world’s largest selection of wildlife, science and conservation books, and have expanded their range to include ecology and biodiversity survey equipment and gifts. They have a fantastic reputation for customer service and quality items, and we are thrilled to be able to offer our members and supporters the chance to purchase a wider selection of items whilst still being able to raise vital funds for our conservation work.”

Visit the Butterfly Conservation shop

“Best, most user-friendly moth ID guide on the market”

Doug Mackenzie Dodds, from the UK, reviews the Concise Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland by Martin Townsend and Paul Waring, illustrated by Richard Lewington

Concise Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland jacket image

“Best, most user-friendly moth ID guide on the market:

This book might not catch your eye on the shelf – small, paperback and easily hidden between larger, more attractively-designed moth ID books, but if you are into your moths, I’d thoroughly recommend it.

It’s perfect for the bookshelf but comes into its own in the field. It’s small, light, covered in a waterproof layer, the moths are well-ordered in the book, lifesize and in the two years I’ve owned it it’s not let me down once.

Its very comprehensive – ie. if you trap a moth (or find one!) – you will find it in this book – and so much easier than other, larger, showier, less waterproof, less well-ordered books.

I thoroughly recommend this book if you own a moth trap or even if you don’t.”

Available Now from NHBS

Visit this reviewer’s website

Read our blog post about Robinson moth traps

Share your views with NHBS customers around the world – click here to create a product review

Customer reviews can be read in the ‘Reviews’ tab on each product page and here on the Hoopoe

Guide to Robinson Moth Traps

Robinson Moth Traps are the preferred choice amongst many serious entomologists because they offer the highest attraction and retention rates. There are various models available and NHBS offers a comprehensive range – we’ve put together this guide to Robinson Moth Traps to help you choose the right model. We have also included our top tips to improve the efficiency of your Robinson Trap in use.

Robinson Moth Traps are the preferred choice amongst many serious entomologists because they offer the highest attraction and retention rates.  There are various models available and NHBS offers a comprehensive range – we’ve put together this guide to Robinson Moth Traps to help you choose the right model. We have also included our top tips to improve the efficiency of your Robinson Trap in use.

Similarities

NHBS sells a variety of Robinson moth trap types, varying in both price and specifications.  However, before we get into the differences, let’s consider their similarities.  All our Robinson traps are;

  • Supplied fully wired so you can start using them straight away
  • Fitted with an IP56 waterproof control box housing the appropriate chokes and capacitors
  • Supplied with a bulb (either mercury vapour (MV) or actinic depending on the trap chosen)
  • Supplied with 240V electrics (including 3-pin plug) or 12V battery powered electrics
  • Fitted with a rain guard for the mercury vapour bulb (MV Robinsons only)
  • Fitted with flight interception baffles
  • Complete with drainage hole in centre of base (holes are either too small to allow moths to escape or fitted with gauze)

Differences

Before we analyse each trap individually, remember that any one of these traps will attract moths in large numbers.  Robinson moth traps fitted with mercury vapour bulbs are the most successful traps for attracting and retaining moths.  On a very good night you can expect 500 – 1000 moths.  So, what are the types of Robinson we offer?

NHBS Robinson moth trap

NHBS Robinson moth trap:  we’ve specially designed this trap to make it as cheap as possible for those on a budget or those new to mothing.  Robinson moth traps aren’t cheap and we’ve done all we can to reduce the price.  That said, the electrics are still the same as the other Robinson moth traps and it will still attract large numbers of moths.

Standard Robinson moth trapStandard Robinson moth trap:  this long-term favourite is our most popular design and combines a superb design with affordability.  It is larger and more robust than the NHBS Robinson but lacks one or two features of the Heavy Duty Robinson.  This trap is an excellent choice for both professionals and enthusiasts.

Heavy Duty Robinson moth trapHeavy Duty Robinson moth trap:  this trap is robust and durable, making it ideal for prolonged use.  It combines many great features of a Robinson trap to provide a durable design.

60W Actinic Robinson Moth Trap

60W Actinic Robinson moth trap: this Robinson moth trap has actinic electrics rather than mercury vapour electrics.  It also has the same components and dimensions as the Standard Robinson moth trap.

Midi Robinson moth trap

Midi Robinson moth trap: the Midi Robinson moth trap is the latest edition to the NHBS range of Robinson moth traps.  It has the smallest dimensions of any Robinson moth trap and is available in either a Mercury Vapour or Actinic version.

Actinic vs Mercury Vapour

When choosing between mercury vapour and actinic electrics, there are several general rules to consider.  Mercury vapour bulbs will attract the largest amount of moths.  However, they are also quite bright.  If using the trap in a small back garden, you may want to opt for actinic electrics.  These produce less light and so are less likely to annoy the neighbours.  Mercury vapour bulbs run hot and so need to be protected from the rain to avoid shattering.  All our mercury vapour Robinson traps come with a rain guard as standard.  Actinic bulbs do not run hot and so do not need protecting from the rain. 

If you decide on actinic electrics, then you can choose between the 60W Actinic Robinson and the Actinic Midi Robinson.  The 60W Actinic Robinson is essentially the same trap as our Standard MV Robinson moth trap, but has 2 x 30W actinic bulbs that run off a mains supply or generator.  The Actinic Midi Robinson is smaller than the 60W Actinic Robinson.  The Midi has 1 x 15W actinic bulb that is designed to run off a 12V battery.  Thus it is much more portable as it does not have to be plugged into mains electrics, but won’t attract as many moths as it’s not as powerful.

If It’s Mercury Vapour You Want…!

If you decide on a Mercury Vapour Robinson moth trap, then NHBS has a range of options to cater for various situations and budgets.

Small is Beautiful

For those wanting the cheapest mercury vapour Robinson trap available, the MV Midi Robinson is the trap for you.  But just because it is the cheapest, it doesn’t mean the quality of the trap has been compromised.  Essentially it is the same trap as our best seller, the Standard Robinson moth trap, but with a few alterations to reduce the price.  Firstly, it’s smaller with a base diameter of 45cm compared to the 60cm base of the Standard Robinson trap.  This makes it more portable but means there’s less space for moths – a potential consideration if trapping on the busiest of nights.  The Midi Robinson has an 80W MV bulb, as opposed to the other MV Robinson traps that all run 125W MV bulbs.  This means the Midi is less powerful and so may attract fewer moths.  However, the build quality and components used are identical to those used on the Standard Robinson moth trap, so the Midi will still provide a durable and effective method of trapping moths.

125W MV Robinson Moth Traps – One of Three to Choose!

If you’ve decided against an actinic Robinson, and consider the Midi Robinson to be too small, or just simply want the most powerful Robinson trap available, then it’s a 125W MV Robinson you’ll be wanting!  There are three 125W MV Robinson traps to choose between; NHBS MV RobinsonStandard MV Robinson, and the Heavy Duty Robinson.  

When choosing between these three types of trap, you may want to consider the following;

Trap Electrics

125W MV moth trap electricsAll three trap designs fundamentally have the same 240V electrics with all the necessary chokes, capacitors, etc included.  As they all run a 125W mercury vapour bulb, there won’t be any noticeable differences in light intensity or attraction rates of moths.  Where they do differ is in the cable lengths.  The NHBS Robinson has a short input cable (that runs from the mains plug to the waterproof control box) of approximately 1.5 metres.  The Standard Robinson has approximately 5 metres of input cable, whilst the Heavy Duty Robinson has 15 metres of input cable.  So, you’ll probably need an extension cable for use with the NHBS Robinson.  The output cable (that runs from the control box to the bulb) is short for all three designs (1 – 2 metres).

Base

The bases of all three traps are made of black plastic and have drainage holes.  The NHBS Robinson has a smaller diameter base (approx. 50 cm) compared to the other two designs (approx. 60 cm).  Therefore, the NHBS Robinson has a smaller area for moth retention.  The base of the Heavy Duty Robinson is particularly durable and has a drainage hole fitted with gauze.  The Standard Robinson also has a drainage hole with gauze covering, whilst the NHBS Robinson has small holes drilled into the base to provide drainage.  All of the bases can be easily repaired in the event of minor cracks and breakages.

Collar

The collar of the NHBS Robinson is made of 3 mm black plastic and cannot be removed from the base.  Therefore, you won’t be able to see into the trap whilst it’s on, but the thick plastic will last for many years.  The collar of the Standard Robinson is made of 3 mm thick clear plastic and can be removed from the base.  You’ll be able to see inside whilst the trap is on.  The collar of the Heavy Duty Robinson is also made of 3 mm thick clear plastic and is removable from the base.  As you can remove the collars on the Standard and Heavy Duty Robinson, you can stack the bases into each other (for bases of the same model) for storage.  The collar of the NHBS Robinson is not removable so traps cannot be stacked inside each other.  The collars on all three traps are made of UV stable plastic and will be more resistant to brittleness; a common complaint for less robust collar designs.

Cone and Rain Guard

Spare cone for Standard Robinson moth trapAll three trap designs have a white cone and rain guard.  The NHBS and Heavy Duty Robinson traps have similar designs of cone with three flight interception baffles and a sturdy rain guard design which screws tight for rigidity.  The Standard Robinson has four flight interception baffles that are slightly more prominent in profile.  The rain guard, whilst having four supports, does not screw down for security.  Therefore, in high winds it may be prone to being blown over; although if high winds are predicted it’s unlikely you’ll be using the trap anyway!

If you’ve got any other questions regarding the three trap types then please contact customer services.

Hints and Tips

Regardless of the Robinson design, there are several ways to improve the efficiency of your Robinson moth trap.

  1. The majority of adult moths are nectar feeders, so site your trap in areas full of native plants.  Make your garden into a wildlife haven and you’ll hopefully see a big increase in moth numbers.  You may have to accept increased damage to your plants as you should avoid the use of pesticides.
  2. Improve the attractiveness of your garden by using plants that release their strongest scent during the evening, such as nicotinia and night-scented stock or honeysuckle.
  3. Cold, clear nights (especially following a period of milder weather) will reduce the numbers of moths available for trapping.  Cloudy, warm nights are best, especially as it tends to be darker on cloudy nights and so less light pollution will be competing with the trap light.
  4. Avoid trapping on bright nights with a full moon or near other sources of light, e.g. street lamps.
  5. Avoid windy or wet nights as moths are less inclined to fly and to avoid damage to the trap.
  6. If air masses are moving up from the South, southern coastal areas of the UK may see increased numbers of migrants being blown over from the continent.
  7. Peak mothing months are July and August.  However, moths may be seen in substantial numbers at other times of the year, especially in rural areas.

Remember to think about the moths too!  Avoid trapping on consecutive nights in small gardens as you may be trapping the same moths, thus preventing them from feeding and mating.  You can reduce the chance of re-trapping the same moths by releasing moths at least 50 metres from the trap site.  Ideally release the moths into dense vegetation so that they have a daytime refuge from predators.  If leaving the trap overnight, try and check it early in the morning.  Occasionally you may find wasps and hornets in the trap.  Wasps may kill moths and hornets will eat them, but both wasps and hornets are docile in the morning so can be removed with minimal effort.  Avoid trapping near known hornets nests.  If you can’t inspect your trap until later in the day, ensure it is in a shady area and place a damp cloth or sponge in the bottom of the trap to reduce the chances of dehydration.

Trap Components

We also provide trap electrics, bulbs and individual trap component separately.  Not all components are listed on the website, so if you can’t find what you’re looking for then get in touch with customer services.  Similarly, if you have any other questions then please get in touch.