Handling Moths

/ in Know Your Moths by Marek
Striped hawk moth resting on a persons thumb
Striped and ready to go

Although this post is titled Handling Moths it is not the subject of the photo attached of a Striped Hawk Moth recorded whilst visiting friends in Portugal a couple of years ago.

It is not good practice to handle moths in any way at as they are easily damaged and do not care for this type of attention.

Hawk moths are the exception if you are extremely careful due to their large size as portrayed.

This post is about how I settle moths on a grey background to produce the shots for my site.

When I first started recording moths I fell into the trap of over enthusiasm trying to bully my subjects into staying where I wanted.

This approach only gave marginal success and I soon learned that the best policy to achieve my goal was to handle or disturb them as little as possible and refrain from continuous tapping on the pot.

Obviously, I need to pot them initially asking them nicely if they will pose in the middle of the grey pot cover provided.

With care this is easily achievable for most macro moths as once they are settled they will remain so for quite some time if left undisturbed giving ample opportunity to take some good shots.

When it comes to micro moths however it is a completely different story as once they are disturbed they can take a very long time to settle, usually in the wrong place.

It is only with experience, keen observation, subterfuge and patience that enables me to get the results I am looking for.

One approach, which sometimes provides such results, is placing the pot and cover in the fridge for a short period of time as moths become less active when cool and doesn’t harm them in any way.

As my wife is not keen on me using the fridge in the kitchen for obvious reasons I have put one in Grumpy’s shed for this purpose and provides a handy place to store a few beers.

Again, it would be useful if during this chilling experience they would decide to settle where I want them to.

This is where observation plays a big part as several micro moths prefer to settle upside down, so I oblige them by putting the pot and cover in the fridge in this way and then they come to rest on the grey and not the pot.

When out on field trips we take a whisky shaped flask filled with frozen water which servers a similar purpose as the fridge but for day flying moths and has produced some good results as well as providing a cool drink on hot summer days.

Upside pot resting on a bottle containing frozen water
Just Chilling Out.

There are also several micro moths which will only come to rest on the side of the pot mainly next to the lip.

Subterfuge comes to play here in the form of a little gizmo I knocked up in the Grumpy’s shed some time ago when I realised that I needed a different approach if I was to stand any chance of getting a photo of a particular subject

Block of wood on a hinged base to allow for wedging a pot between it to keep it vertical
Side effects of pot

Suffice to say I was successful then, and on subsequent occasions, of getting these candidates to settle on the side which is now the grey next to the lip of the pot.

To reiterate, moths once settled will often remain so for quite long periods of time if not disturbed and, with patience, one is able to get good shots of insects some of which are no bigger than 3 or 4 millimetres.