Placing Traps

When placing traps, take into consideration safety as well as environmental factors that can make placing traps more successful.

Choose a safe location

Moths can be found in many different types of habitats and part of the excitement for students (and adults) is the mystery of what can be collected in “my habitat”. Thus, allowing students to wonder and to collect moths in places that they find interesting should be encouraged.  Traps should only be placed where permission has been granted and safety in placing and collecting traps should be considered (e.g. away from roads or hazardous sites).  It is important that teachers consider the environments and safety hazards that students could encounter in their local communities.  These will vary depending on the location of schools from urban to rural and should be addressed with students prior to placing traps.

Placement of two moth traps to compare bottle colors as a student research question

(Thanks to students at Grand Blanc East Middle School and Chesaning Middle School)

Environmental factors can affect the likelihood of capturing moths in the traps

Some examples are listed below as a help to teachers, but keep in mind that allowing students to place traps in a variety of settings will allow the excitement of discovering information about moth diversity themselves.  An important principle in scientific research that can be shared with students is that getting a result of “zero” (no moths collected in a trap) is not a “wrong answer”.  It helps us to answer questions of what moths can be found in an area and what determines how we can catch them.

Factors potentially affecting moth captures

Temperature – moths are more active on warmer nights (above 60 degrees F)

Wind – many moths are weak fliers and are more active on calm nights (<12 mph winds)

Light – artificial lights (and moonlight) can make it more difficult for the moths to be attracted to the trap blacklight so traps placed in darker locations may attract more moths

Rain – moths will avoid flying in rain and even brief periods of rain can introduce water into the collection bucket and damage any collected moths. Humid nights following rains during the day are often good for moth activity

Time of Day – because battery powered lights will dim over time (brightest light is in the first 4-6 hours), placing the traps and turning on lights as close to sunset as possible is desirable.  Placing the traps and turning the light on during school hours will cause it to be dim and ineffective by the time darkness arrives and most moths are active.  Preferably, students would have traps with them and be able to place them safely before dark at a place accessible from their homes. If this safety cannot be assured, we have had teachers work with their students to place traps on school property or local natural areas during the school day. The teacher or other adult would then return in the evening to turn the lights on and students could collect the traps the following day.