Life of a Lepidopterist

I have often been asked what a lepidopterist is and why I use light traps, especially one which was compared to a lighthouse beacon by one of my neighbors this year to trap and record moths. The first answer to this question has been instilled in my memory since 2012 when my interest in moths from childhood in the late 1970’s and 1980s resurfaced later on in life. I remember visiting natural history museums, seeing specimen cases on display with my parents,  exploring the grassland and woodland of the local nature reserve, post hill throughout the different seasons during the school holidays, near where I grew up. A lepidopterist specializes in studying butterflies and moths, the name lepidopterist is derived from the name of the order of butterflies and moths, Lepidoptera, (Amateur Entomologists’ Society 2016).

light-trapping poplar-hawk-moth-elephant-hawk-moth-photo-credits-david-prestonbimage_08-05-2016_06-46-16_0006

Friends and family members ask me why the fascination with moths, simple, though I often answer this in two parts, sometimes eyes glaze over in boredom. But lately over the last five years people are actually interested and listen to me, ask what species of macro and micro moths I have recorded, can they see some specimens or pictures. I contribute this interest to peoples growing awareness of the importance of our natural environment. The first part of the second question, I like to think I’m making a difference along with other recorders for the cause of environmental conservation setting up light traps twice weekly, overnight. The anticipation of the catch, recording some old favorites and new species when I check my trap the following morning, often is the case; the trap is empty, which leads to disappointment.


The second part of the question, moths play a major role in our natural environment pollinating wild flowers and food crops. Both adult moths and their caterpillars provide important food sources for other species including birds, reptiles and small mammals. Moths are very sensitive to changes, monitoring numbers and ranges through carrying out trapping provides scientists with information on clues to changes in our own environment such as the effects of habitat loss, farming practices and pesticides, air pollution and climate change, Moth Count (2016). On a final note, my interest in Lepidoptera led me back on the journey of academia, writing my dissertation on the subject of macro moths. To all you homo sapiens out there who have considered moth recording, contact your local moth group and county recorder, take up the cause, join the growing army of moth recorders, new blood is always welcome !

Amateur Entomologists’ Society (2016), /insects/glossary/terms/lepidopterist [online] Available at [Accessed 24th November 2016]

Moth Count (2016), /text/16/importance_of_moths.html [online] Available at [Accessed 24th November 2016]

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Mature graduate in Conservation & Countryside Management, interests include British Wildlife and habitat management practices for Lepidoptera species, passionate about moth trapping.

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