Top summer garden moths for beginners

Here we have a mixture of moths you’re almost guaranteed to attract to a moth trap, plus a few of the real lookers to watch out for.

It can be overwhelming and confusing when you first start, but look closely at your moths and you’ll begin to notice patterns, delicate colours and beautiful shapes.   And beware – moth trapping, identification and recording can become addictive!  You’ll soon want to build your list and attract some of those really special species!

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Angle shades

Often mistaken for a dead leaf, this moth can be found across the UK all year round.  It’s main flight season is May to October where our resident population may be joined by migrants from the continent.  Drawn to light traps and can be found overwintering.

Poplar hawkmoth

The most commonly encountered hawkmoth and often the first large moth a beginner will find!  Females are paler than males.  Neither feed as adults.  They have a hidden surprise – a orangey-red patch on their underwings that is usually covered but can be flashed when danger threatens.  Drawn to light traps.

Ruby tiger

An unmistakeable and widespread moth that can be found from April to September.  Their colour can vary from bright red in the south of England, becoming duller further north and into Scotland.  Drawn to light traps.

Burnished brass

One of the jewels of the moth world, this species comes adorned in precious metals.  Turn the moth in the light and panels of greenish-gold will glint and shine.  Widespread from June to September.  Drawn to light traps.

Setaceous hebrew character

A common moth found across the UK from May to October.  At first it may be easy to confuse with other brown, mottled moths, but look for the striking pale triangle that pinches either side of the moth.   Drawn to light traps, often in large numbers.

Antler moth

A widespread moth that flies from June to September.  Look for the distinctive lightening strike markings that branch off down either wing, giving the moth its name.   Drawn to light traps and sometimes encountered during the day.

Flame shoulder

One of the smaller and often overlooked moths, but commonly found in traps from May to September.  Its delicate pinky-brown colour is broken at the outer edges of its wings by pale strips.  Drawn to light traps.

Silver Y

This little grey moth is easily recognised by the bright white markings on each wing which resemble a lower case ‘y’.  It also has a distinctive hovering flight.  It can be found at any time of year, but mainly seen from April to October.  Migrant moths also join our resident population from the continent.  Drawn to light traps and commonly seen feeding on grassland flowers during the day.

Green carpet

The diminutive carpet moths come in many different colours and patterns, but generally always rest with the wings laid flat to form a soft triangle shape.  Widespread and found from May to July.  Also look out for the common carpet and silver-ground carpet.  Drawn to light traps.

Elephant hawkmoth

One of our most brightly coloured moths and a favourite among moth trappers.  They are named for their large caterpillars which resemble trunks.  Also look out for the very similar small elephant hawkmoth which has different wing and body patterns.  Drawn to light traps and can be seen visiting honeysuckle at dusk.

Red underwing

This robust moth may appear dull at first, but when alarmed shows off stunning red and black panels hidden beneath its forewings.  It flies between August and September and is mainly found in the south of the UK.  Drawn to sugar and light traps.

Garden tiger

Another treasure among moths, this species combines bright colours with stunning spots and patterns.  Its ‘woolly bear’ caterpillars are a favourite food of cuckoos.  Widespread (but declining) across the UK from July to August.  Drawn to light traps.

Buff ermine

A common moth seen between May and July.  Look for the diagonal lines of black spots going from the centre to the tips of the wings.  They also have black legs and long, attractive antennae.  Also look out for more ghostly looking white ermine.  Drawn to light traps.

Willow beauty

The markings and colours can vary slightly but are mainly grey, with two delicate lines crossing the wings.  It rests with its wings laid flat and has thick, furry-looking antennae.  Common across the UK from July to September.  Drawn to light traps.

Peppered moth

This moth is famous as an example of natural selection in action.  Black individuals became more common in industrial areas back when coal dust blackened tree trunks, giving them an edge over their less well camouflaged counterparts.  The typical mottled white and black form is much more common nowadays.  Found from May to August.  Drawn to light traps.

Privet hawkmoth

This magnificent moth is the largest hawkmoth resident in the UK.  When it opens its wings it reveals a striped pink and black body.  Found throughout southern parts of the UK between June and July.  Drawn to light traps and sometimes seen feeding on honeysuckle at night.


An unmistakeable bright yellow moth with brown patches at its wing edges.  Common and widespread throughout the UK and can be found from April to October.  Drawn to light traps and often disturbed during the day.

The herald

This moth is well camouflaged as a dead leaf with its scalloped wing edges and orangey-red colours.  Widespread across the UK. Its main flight period is between August and November.  Drawn to light traps and may be found overwintering in outbuildings.

Grey dagger

Look closely at the silvery-grey wings of this moth.  They are patterned with what look like dark fissures or cracks, often resembling daggers.  This widespread moth flies from June to August.  Drawn to light traps.

Muslin moth

The males are a lovely powdery brown and the females white, both with a smattering of dark spots.  Take a close look at their faces – they look a bit like they’re wearing mascara!  Found May to June and is relatively widespread.  The female also flies by day.  Drawn to light traps. 

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