Well I should begin from the beginning. Back in 2009 I got a descent bridge camera, the Panasonic FZ18, a nice little camera for the money. I knew my main interest was nature photos, so I got well into using my Raynox Macro Conversion and taking photos of insects. I began posting on Flickr and a local person Andy Phillips noticed my stuff, well I noticed his as well. He had amazing photos of the most incredible moths!! How does he do it, I had to know. So we began by going to a well lit foot bridge across railroad tracks at very odd hours of the night to see and photograph moths. I could tell you some hilarious stories about the other odd people out at night, and what the police thought, but I'll save those.

Soon we knew we wanted to have our own Trap. We looked at moth traps and we deiced to build our own, which we still use today. My better half designed this one for us.

Here is ours minus the egg cartons. Actinic 40W runs off mains or car battery.

So the reason I got into moths was to photograph them, and see them in detail that I couldn't see normally. Today we are a bit more scaled up, as in we are members of our local Sussex Moth Group Hastings Branch, we hold events both for the public and members, and we record our moths from the patio/balcony to contribute to our county and National databases of records. We also do talks and education on the importance of moths. I'm affectionately known as the Moth Lady to many a 9 year old in Hastings..lol

When I started I took photos in situ, on egg cartons or on a small cloth we had put into the moth trap, but there are times when it is vital to get photos for IDing or recording special species, and I started this to get 'nice' photos of moths so we knew we must get better at this. Relying on a moth to cooperate is going to be frustrating. Most moths are naturally active at night, and are naturally prone to go hide in the daylight, they are unpredictable, and that is especially true when they are warm. I don't care for the aesthetics of photos on the egg cartons either.
So our friend and professional Entomologist Andy to the rescue. Invest in some pots and refrigerate your moths for some time before you take the photos. I was leery to begin with, but I've learned that this is actually quite safe for the moth and will result in them being much more docile for photos.

We bought our proper specimen pots from Anglian Lepidopterist Supplies which have loads of useful equipment and guides, if you are in the UK. Of course you can use other items to 'pot' moths like small sauce pots, baby food jars, yogurt pots. If you do decide to use items from around the house to start with, there is one VERY important thing to know. DO NOT put air holes in the jars or pots and then refrigerate them. This allows condensation to form on the INSIDE and will damage or harm the moths. People often ask when I take moths potted to our events, 'Can they breath?', answer YES there is plenty of air in the pots to last a moth for days they are tiny breathers and for photos you'll only be keeping them for a day at the most. I don't like to use screw top types as the moth can get caught in it before you can secure the lid, and become injured too easily so be careful of that, if those are the types you use.
Most countries will have a place like the link above, a quick search of Entomologist Supplies or Specimen Pots should get you local results.

Moths can be safely refrigerated (as can many insects) at about the same temperature as you would keep cheese or milk, NO colder. I generally keep them no more than 10 hours in total unless they show signs of being stressed, those get released right away. If they are just laying sideways in the pot, and not up on the sides its time to just let them go. Some people have special small size fridges for this sorta thing, luckily my other half has no problems with me storing moths with our eggs but others are not so accepting..lol

You will have casualties when doing any moth trapping whether you pot moths for photos or not and no matter how careful you are, the reason being you are catching them at different times in their lives, most moths live in the adult stage for a few weeks, and they could be at the end when you catch them. Its never good to find moths past away in the trap but don't let it discourage you too badly, its the natural way. Most will have already mated and laid eggs and its just that time for them.

So now you have got some pots, how to get them in, well that can be fun as well. Moths tend to fly in circles around your light source which makes for a commical chase, but once they get into a trap or settle on the wall you can either ease them into the pot or tap them into it from the egg tray. You can also invest in a net if you're really into it, we all know that the best moths are those ones that are getting away, haha.

Below is a selection of the pots we use.

The small pots are for different sized moths, we like micro moths here so we have small pots for them. It makes seeing the moth with a magnifying glass easier so we can ID them. The larger round pot will hold pretty good sized moths, they need room to be able to open their wings and move about. Otherwise they will damage themselves, once they are in the refrigerator for a bit they will calm down, but we want to make sure they are safe until then. The large square pot in back is a cricket box from the pet store and is perfect for Hawk Moths and larger Prominents. These moths generally prefer to be 'hanging' from the side so it accommodates them that way too. It has air holes so I don't refrigerate these unless I have to, but as they are larger moths, they are calmer without it and they are not as susceptible to getting stuck to the side with condensation. The large sauce jar with the wood, that has a special purpose. Some moths prefer to sit with wings open on flat surface, like a wall or wood. So when I am ready to photograph them I place some of those types of moths into this jar with the wood at room temperature, they often will settle on it. I can then gently open the jar and slide the wood out, and get photos where they feel comfortable and its a more natural setting, I can also then move them to get a nice back ground. They will sit quite happy unless they get bumped or touched.

When I'm ready to photograph other moths, I will take the pot outside camera at the ready and place them on either one of the large logs I have, or on a smaller piece of wood. Drift wood works well, as does other bits of aged flattish wood without bark, so I bring them home when I find them on our travels.

I open the pot gently, and give it a gentle but firm 'Jut' motion to fling them gently onto the wood (or leaves of plants I have on the patio, even sometimes onto flowers) and out of the pot. Then move quickly to take the photos. Some moths need a bit of coaxing into position, so you can use a soft 'hair' paintbrush and they don't mind that too much to move them gently along.

I prefer to trap at night, bring pots in of moths I want to photograph in the morning, wait until evening light and do the photos. Once I've got my photos the best I can, or once they let me know that they are waking up, I put them back into the pots and put them in a shady spot on the patio for about 10 minutes before releasing them. Although they are waking up (so to speak) they still are not flying right yet, so they need some time (in a safe place) to get warmed up properly. Once they are I let them out of the pots. If you have a front garden area it might be better to release there, away from where you may be trapping, so you don't recatch them. This can skew results for records and its not great for the moth either.

Well I hope this wasn't too long or boring and encourges some of you to do some traping yourselves and see what you might have in your garden or space at night and get photos of them too.

I'm always happy to answer questions about mothing, traps, and IDing so just contact me or ask away here if you want.

A bit of shameless self promotion here, but I'm also running a Beginners Moth Trapping course for the Sussex Wildlife Trust on June 7th at the Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve if anyone local to here would like to come along :)

Update: Just to let yall know my class has been cancelled due to lack of folks booked :Shocked look:, it was a bit expensive but that part wasn't my choice. We have written a small book-let which I am going to get into pdf format if anyone is interested in a Begginers guide to Moth Trapping let me know :D