Using a light sheet to collect insects.

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mothman27
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Postmothman27 on 11/22/2016, 7:16 pm

Light sheets can be used to attract moths, beetles and many other insects.
No one is really sure why insects are attracted to light but some say it may be because they go toward it thinking it is the moon. The basic idea is a white sheet with powerful UV lights. The insects come and land on the sheet and then you can collect them for whatever your purpose.

I have collected many bugs with this method including silkmoths, sphinx moths, underwing moths, stag beetles, diving beetles, cicadas, wasps, dragonflies and even a few butterflies.

My setup has 1 160w Mercury Vapor lightbulb, 1 13w Blacklight black tube and 1 13w Blacklight white tube. Sometimes I use a regular blacklight bulb or regular fluorescent bulb also.
Here is a picture of mine from August 2016 in Steuben Co., IN. That night I caught a Catocala nebulosa, an uncommon underwing moth, along with some sphinx moths and Papaipema


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PostT.C. on 11/22/2016, 10:07 pm

lol, yeah that really does work doesn't it. I used a similar setup, only I  just had to use a bunch of white tape. Also thats a perfect location, with that pond in the back, and surrounded by woods you must have gotten alot of insects. Thanks for sharing this with us. Super helpful. Smile
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mothman27
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Postmothman27 on 11/23/2016, 6:48 am

Actually, considering the location I would have expected to get much more.
Glad it helps,
Tim
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PostPraxibetelix on 11/23/2016, 3:23 pm

That is so awesome! I will have to do this sheet collecting with my kids this summer. Can you catch things in early fall? Hard to keep the little kids up so late in summer waiting for darkness to come.
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Postmothman27 on 11/24/2016, 7:30 am

It is fun. Well much less rewarding in spring or fall. I see your concern. You are much lees likely to get anything big. The best time is really a night with no moon, humid, hot and in June, July or August. Depending on what you want to catch different times are preferable. Unfortunately, most silkmoths fly around 2:00, Some fly earlier, some later.
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Postmothman27 on 11/24/2016, 7:31 am

You can always check in the morning, best right before the sun comes up, and most things will still be on the sheet.
Is there anything in particular you want to see?
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PostT.C. on 11/26/2016, 12:38 pm

I have heard people say the best time to go out is at night a day after a rainfall, I am not sure however if there is any truth to this?
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Postmothman27 on 11/26/2016, 4:07 pm

If it makes it humid then I can see why that would be true.
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Postnatureguy on 11/28/2016, 9:08 am

Does it matter what type of light a person uses? Very Happy
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Postmothman27 on 11/28/2016, 12:06 pm

Very much so. I general, the more ultraviolet, the better. Some insects are attracted to the blacklight blue and some more to the blacklight white. The higher the wattage, the stronger the light waves are so the farther you can attract bugs from. Basically, Mercury vapor lights are the best although to get a good one is not cheap. regular fluorescent lights will still get some bugs, just not the amount or variety.
I got my blacklights from ebay and my MV is like this: https://www.amazon.com/LIGHT-SOLAR-REPTILE-BALLASTED-MERCURY/dp/B000STGLZQ/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1480356067&sr=8-5&keywords=mercury+vapor+pet+160w
Some bugs will come from long distances to the powerful lights and then land/rest by a less powerful one, possibly because the others are so strong.
For the sheet, I have hear cotton is the best material although I am not really sure. As long as the light can reflect off of the surface that is what I think matters.

I would suggest starting with a regular blacklight bulb you can get at most stores and add one or two fluorescent bulbs.
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PostPraxibetelix on 11/28/2016, 12:44 pm

I'm so new to bugs, as are my kids, that seeing anything would be fun. My daughter really wants a mantis. Would one of them come in to the light sheet? In the summer, they are all dead or will be soon now.
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Postmothman27 on 11/28/2016, 4:20 pm

Possibly, I wouldn't count on it though. You never know what you will get. I did get one mantis this year.
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Postpannaking22 on 1/6/2017, 4:22 pm

I always enjoy going out with either a blacklight or mercury vapor bulb. It's fun seeing what turns up based on location, time of year, lunar phase, and when the last rainfall was.
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PostCanadian anter on 1/6/2017, 8:01 pm

i find that no matter what, closest day to rainfall or the day of rainfall always yields best results.

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