Conservationists and the public will be heading for the woods this week for the UK’s annual Moth Night. 

People are urged to report day and night sightings of moths during the event, which runs from Thursday to Saturday, 19-21 May. Their records will support research into how these insects are being affected by changes in climate and land management.

Moth Night is organised by Atropos, Butterfly Conservation and the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH). It highlights the important role played by the 2,500 species of UK moths, unsung heroes of our native wildlife both as plant pollinators and essential food for many other animals. 

Woodland, the theme of this year’s event, is a vital habitat for moths because their caterpillars feed on trees, shrubs and lichens, while woodland flowers provide nectar for adult moths. Woodland also provides relatively warm, sheltered conditions, ideal for a wide variety of springtime moths to fly in. 

Dr David Roy, Head of the Biological Records Centre at UKCEH, says: “For Moth Night 2022 we’re encouraging the public to look for and submit sightings of moths in woodland, but also in their gardens, parks and the wider countryside. 

“There are public events that people can attend to see magnificent moths. Moths are excellent indicators of biodiversity and the quality of woodland and other habitats, so by submitting Moth Night sightings, people are contributing to a citizen science project and helping understand the impacts of land management and climate change.”

Mark Tunmore, editor of the journal Atropos and Moth Night founder, says: “We are also encouraging daytime moth hunts this year as there are many day-flying species to be seen, including the stunning Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth, Speckled Yellow and Argent & Sable.”

The abundance of moths has declined by one-third in Britain over the last 50 years and a recent study suggested that declines have been even more extreme in more wooded landscapes. However, some woodland moths have done well, benefitting from the increase in broadleaf woodland in the UK, which has more than doubled since the late 1960s. 

Dr Richard Fox, Head of Science at the charity Butterfly Conservation, says: “Government commitments to increase tree cover are very welcome. Allowing natural regeneration of woodland and more tree planting will greatly benefit moths as well as helping to tackle the climate crisis.”

For more information on taking part in Moth Night, which runs 19-21 May 2022, see www.mothnight.info

How to take part in Moth Night 2022 

While you can buy light-traps that do not harm the insects, specialist equipment is not required to attract moths. Leaving outside lights on, painting ‘sugar’ mixture on fence posts, or draping rope soaked in red wine over bushes can be particularly effective. There is advice at mothnight.info/taking-part

For help in identifying moths, people can check guides to species, the What’s Flying Tonight? app or contact moth enthusiasts via the Moth Night Facebook page