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  • Rights: The University of Waikato
    Published 14 April 2009, Updated 25 June 2018 Referencing Hub media

    Dr Robert Hoare, of Landcare Research NZ Ltd, takes us on a moth-collecting expedition. Join Dr Hoare as he goes out at night to collect moths for scientific study.


    The easiest way to collect moths is to go out into a nice habitat like a forest or a wetland at night, and you put a bright light out and a white sheet on the ground. The bright light confuses them, they think it’s the moon, and so it messes up their whole system of finding their way around. They try and keep that at a constant angle to them and end up curving around towards the light. The moths come and settle on the sheet, and then you can identify them and collect any that you need. Most of the moths that I see I can just write down the name and make a record that I've seen that species in a particular place. But if things are more difficult to identify, if you just write down that you've seen that moth, then scientists in the future aren't necessarily going to believe you. So you have to take one or a few specimens just to show that that species is the one that you've found. In the case of very rare and possibly threatened moths, even with those, you've got to be very careful that you don't collect a lot of those, but it’s important that you have at least one specimen to prove that that moth really has been found in that place. And so all those labelled specimens in the collection go to document what was found at a particular place at a particular time, and it’s an important historical record of our fauna

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