DIY Moth Light

Due to the slippery slope of curiosity that iNaturalist has made for me around organisms I never even knew I could care about I've put a fair amount of time this summer into trying to build a cheap and effective moth light that could easily fit into a backpack and weigh a pound or less. The below link gets you to the blog of what I've learned and how to make your own for about $50 that you can also use to charge your cell phone with in the backcountry.

Thanks to @catchang for all of your encouragement and testing of demo units, including those that just melted and fell apart. Electronics is just as new to me as moths. Also thanks to @robberfly for all the lepidopterist stories and general enthusiasm around beautiful winged creatures. Thanks to @kueda @finatic @leftcoastnaturalist @leptonia @tiwane @seakangaroo for letting me hang around moth lights with you. Big thanks to all of the identifiers that have been brave enough to take those moth pictures closer to species level calls: @jimjohnson @k8thegr8 @hkmoths @gwark @cedarleaf @cedarleaf @ericwilliams @treegrow @loarie @leannewallisbiologist @sambiology

2022.06 update. Here are my current pieces for building the DiY Moth light:

My current system is as follows:


"Screen" aka a shower curtain liner

I run fishing line through the shower curtain liner holes and at both ends put ~2 ft of line with loops at the end, this allows me to wrap around tree trunks and hold it up with just 2 thumbtacks. Although I find frequently I'm just finding other things that I can loop through the fishing line inbetween holes in the liner and use that to hold it up.

I sometimes will use a USB extender so that light's USB cable easily gets to my USB battery.

Currently I'm using this USB battery, but really anything over 10,000mAH is going to be good for ~ 6-8 hrs of mothing

Publicado por damontighe damontighe, 28 de septiembre de 2017


@damontighe , this is really cool and something that might come in handy when traveling out of the US. Not only is it small and lightweight but you don't have to worry about electrical conversion.
I enjoyed spending the one evening with you a light here and hope to have the chance to do it again in the future.
@jaykeller you might give this a go when heading to Paraguay next time.

Publicado por finatic hace más de 5 años (Marca)

awesome FYI @sterling

Publicado por loarie hace más de 5 años (Marca)

@dcoldren, this is relevant to your interests.

Publicado por vermfly hace más de 5 años (Marca)

Very cool, I will certainly give this a try! Thanks for involving me!

Publicado por ericwilliams hace más de 5 años (Marca)


Publicado por k8thegr8 hace más de 5 años (Marca)
Publicado por damontighe hace más de 5 años (Marca)

I think there is a lot of potential for discovery where you mention documenting light sources (toward the end of the article.) "I am interested in accumulating data around what moths come to which lights so if you are running your home made moth lights, please think of contributing your data to iNaturalist and using the Observation Field Light Source:395-400 nm LED and Light Source: 365 nm." I'll tag some of my local moth-ers so they can keep this in mind as they upload moths, too. @sambiology @annikaml @cgritz @tadamcochran @pfau_tarleton

Publicado por kimberlietx hace más de 5 años (Marca)

Awesome! thanks @kimberlietx

Publicado por damontighe hace más de 5 años (Marca)

Sweet! With just a little modification to the equipment list, I might be able to make this work using my JBL charge bluetooth speaker. Thanks for the post.

Publicado por tadamcochran hace más de 5 años (Marca)

This is so cool!!!.. I'm going to order this and try it out... I like that it is light and low impact on carrying around plus I need a charger for my phone and that is half the cost.

Publicado por butterflies4fun hace casi 5 años (Marca)

@butterflies4fun - if any questions come up along the way, just let me know

Publicado por damontighe hace casi 5 años (Marca)

@damontighe - i got all the pieces but my light won't power from the battery. Here is the battery I got Ravpower Model RP-P607 Capacity 10400mAh/38.4Wh Input DCV5/2A Output DC5V 2.4A/2.1A max. The light is USB Operated 395-400nm UV A-level. I thought I ordered everything from the links but something is not right.. Thanks for any help..Melanie

Publicado por butterflies4fun hace casi 5 años (Marca)

1) check to see if the battery works - attempt to charge a cell phone from it.
2) check to see if the light works - plug it into the USB on a computer.
- the light i had linked has a funny on off button on the cord about a foot or so back from where it attaches (button is present in the image in the blog on the circled up cord) and it doesn't have the normal mechanical feeling of a button, but if you gently squeeze it the light will toggle on/off.

let me know how these tests went and I can trouble shoot from there

Publicado por damontighe hace casi 5 años (Marca)

Damon why aren't you coming to Del Rio? :(

Publicado por kimberlietx hace casi 5 años (Marca)

@kimberlietx - wish I was! The day job gets in the way of so much good fun, but if I'm lucky I'll be out in Fort Worth this November leading workshop at STAT-CAST

Publicado por damontighe hace casi 5 años (Marca)

November is still great iNatting time in North Texas! Keep me posted! I can pull a group together in no time if you plan some leisure time in your schedule!

If I say mothing out loud, the heavens move and suddenly @sambiology @brentano @tadamcochran @annikaml and @cgritz pop up out of nowhere!!

Publicado por kimberlietx hace casi 5 años (Marca)

@kimberlietx Did I hear you say something about mothing? I'm here for you!

Publicado por annikaml hace casi 5 años (Marca)


Publicado por brentano hace casi 5 años (Marca)

@damontighe .. It is working now.. Very strange... It would charge my phone and not the light. But I finally got it to work. I'm not sure what I did differently to get it to work but I did press the button even though it charges my phone without pressing the button. Thanks again. I look forward to testing it out in Del Rio although I will have to compete with all the bad boy lights !!!

Publicado por butterflies4fun hace casi 5 años (Marca)

Super! I've tried to get one together too for this year. I'll see if it works soon =)

Publicado por k8thegr8 hace casi 5 años (Marca)

@kimberlietx - as soon as I know the work schedule, I'll let you know. I'd love to have some mothing and general iNat-ing in north Texas!

Publicado por damontighe hace casi 5 años (Marca)

@butterflies4fun - glad to hear it is working! I look forward to seeing what you find with it

Publicado por damontighe hace casi 5 años (Marca)

@damontighe Hi, Damon. I put together your 'plug and play' model a couple of months back and hadn't had a chance to test it out until last weekend at a Bioblitz in South Texas. I (and all of us I think) were extremely impressed with its efficacy. I usually haul around a 400w metal halide setup with a very heavy ballast that requires an electrical outlet. It's very effective, but kind of a pain (literally and figuratively). I think I'm going to retire that setup in favor of the one you've designed. Thank you again for sharing your ideas with us!

Publicado por tadamcochran hace casi 5 años (Marca)

I'll second Adam's comment! @butterflies4fun also tried hers out in Del Rio and it worked great in my opinion! Within a couple of minutes she had a White Lined Sphinx show up. It was interesting to see how something simple is still incredibly effective. (We are still uploading observations, espec the moths, but you should see what came to visit us! We had so many different types of light sources though it would be hard to tag them since we moved from sheet to sheet all night.

Publicado por kimberlietx hace casi 5 años (Marca)

I used the moth light and it really worked well. We got the big moths and smaller ones I've not gotten to my moth uploads and although I thought I could tell which sheet I took pictures on, I think it may be more complicated then I thought. I've got another event coming up where I will try it again as well.. So more to come.. Got behind with the nature challenge and Life in general. Going to share you ideas in a moth presentation I'm doing as well. Thanks for sharing the low budget and easy set up ideas with all.

Publicado por butterflies4fun hace más de 4 años (Marca)

I'm planning to buy the easy 395-400 nm "DJ light" and I've already got a large external USB battery, but before I check out... anyone have any new updates or tips? I love the simplicity of this. Thanks for writing such a useful post, @damontighe! I was just about to text you when I googled a little harder :-)

Publicado por carrieseltzer hace más de 4 años (Marca)

@carrieseltzer - no major up dates to the light, for the screen I've been using a shower curtain liner similar to this:
I've run some fishing line in between all of the holes and tied it off at both ends, so I can usually just pull a branch etc through the fishing line to hang it. I also bring a few thumbtacks just in case its easier to tack it to a wall, tree trunk, etc.

Publicado por damontighe hace más de 4 años (Marca)

Thanks, Damon! I'll be sure to use the observation field for light source when I post the moths.

Publicado por carrieseltzer hace más de 4 años (Marca)

I've used the moth light a couple of times a home (nothing too exciting yet) and I'm headed to a cabin in the woods this weekend. Looks like there's rain in the forecast, so I'm wondering what people's experiences have been with the what I'm calling the "Damon DJ light" set up in the rain. Has anyone tried putting the light in a clear plastic bag? I might also be able to set it up in a protected area, but I haven't been to this place before so I'm not sure what to expect yet.

Publicado por carrieseltzer hace más de 4 años (Marca)

I've run it in the rain before - I place the USB battery in zip lock bag and put a little plastic wrap on the connection between the USB cable and the Light. I didn't have any problems. My light was hanging on a tree close tot he trunk, so it also wasn't getting the brunt of the storm.

Publicado por damontighe hace más de 4 años (Marca)

Thanks Damon! I'll be sure to pack those extras just in case, and report back if I have any rain experience worth sharing.

Publicado por carrieseltzer hace más de 4 años (Marca)

Also this is where using a shower curtain liner has proved to be nice as well since it doesn't really get wet ;)

Publicado por damontighe hace más de 4 años (Marca)

I made one of these last week. I have built a couple of other light sheet stands, but this is much easier to set up and take down. I think it will be great for those nights we only have a couple of hours between rain showers. I went with the 395 nm set up, but the referenced light was not available at Amazon. I went with this light from the same manufacturer: . I like this light because it is very flat (only .3" thick) and lays against the shirt without tending to rotate. This light is listed as 395-400 nm, has 30 LEDs and is 6 watts just like the referenced light, but I notice that 10 of the 30 LEDs are visually a different color -- more blue than pink. That makes me think the wavelength is probably more of a mixture and probably beyond the range of 395 - 400 nm. I dispensed with the USB extension. The unit has plenty of cord to allow me to knot the cord around the hanger to support the light and place the battery pack in the shirt pocket. I am also interested in efforts to waterproof the installation. Thanks for the good suggestions.

Publicado por polkcountymike hace más de 4 años (Marca)

@polkcountymike Thanks for all the great notes! I'd love to hear any progress you make on waterproofing. Its not something I originally though with on the design, but now that a lot more people on the east coast of the US and some tropical regions are starting to use it a good protocol for how to make this with stand a deluge would be really helpful to the community.

Publicado por damontighe hace más de 4 años (Marca)

Hi @damontighe I think some of the Amazon links on your original blog post (at least for the 395 nm assembly kit) have moved. Is there a comparable DJ light and portable charger that you'd recommend using now instead? Thank you so much!

Publicado por edanko hace más de 2 años (Marca)

Many thanks @damontighe ! For a shorter usage period, do you know if a run-of-the-mill phone external charger would be safe to use with the lamp?

Publicado por edanko hace más de 2 años (Marca)

Are the LEDs are facing outward, and if so I suppose they still cast enough light to illuminate the shirt for 'landing'?

Publicado por edanko hace más de 2 años (Marca)

Are there any safety issues with this setup? e.g. see

Publicado por edanko hace más de 2 años (Marca)

@edanko - yes a run of the mill phone charger works. The reason I recommend this one is that I can get ~16 hours of run time off it.
The LED's are facing outward. Moths will land on the sheet because it has some light on it. Having the lights face outwards helps draw moths in from a distance. I often will take a UV flashlight that I can focus the beam and use that "call in" moths. Its amazing in that if I do that for about 30 seconds that within the next 5 minutes I'll usually see a big up tick in the number of moths. 395 nm light is not as dangerous as lower wave lengths. You really want to worry about 260-315 nm UV as those are the wavelengths that cause damage to DNA and RNA. These LED setups are likley much safer then traditional mercury vapor lamp moth lights that do pump out UV in those lower wavelengths. All of this being said I usually don't stand in front of the light except to shoot. I've never had a sun burn or any other indicator that I'm getting an unusually high dose of UV from the LED system. Sometimes my eyes will be tired after moths for 4+ hours, but I've found this tends to be more of a function of my eyes shifting from really bright light to really dark light repeatedly. Good questions!

Publicado por damontighe hace más de 2 años (Marca)

Many thanks! I'm looking forward to sharing my findings.

Publicado por edanko hace más de 2 años (Marca)

@edanko - looking forward to seeing them! Make sure to use the Observation Field: Light Source "395-400 nm LED" when you upload them so its easy to see what moths are coming to this spectrum.

Here are the observations currently with that Observation Field

Publicado por damontighe hace más de 2 años (Marca)

The USB LED I bought 2 years ago has a listed range of 390-400 nm, so here's my observations with a similar observation field:

Publicado por carrieseltzer hace más de 2 años (Marca)

@carrieseltzer - about to break that 100 species mark with yours!

Publicado por damontighe hace más de 2 años (Marca)

Thanks for pointing that out @damontighe! I was at 99 species yesterday, and a little bit of mothing last night put me to 102!

Publicado por carrieseltzer hace más de 2 años (Marca)

@carrieseltzer - congrats!

Publicado por damontighe hace más de 2 años (Marca)

I've been running it a few nights now, with modest results; I only have a 2000 mAh power source, but I found an outlet outside I might be able to try. With these results, is the setup working? (there is admittedly a lot of light pollution, but I'm more concerned with the strange proportion of Trichoptera to Lepidoptera--I'm also just not used to this locality)

Publicado por edanko hace más de 2 años (Marca)

The powersource doesn't matter that much as its constrained by a 5V input and the resistors to pair it down correctly for the LEDs
It sounds like the system is working well. Trichoptera depending on where I go sometimes out number Leps. In some locations there is a lot of variation of what flies night to night and I'm not sure what causes that. Depending on the location their are also temporal windows of when things fly. I remember in Madagascar I didn't see anything until 3am and then it was just a flood of things. Light pollution may be a chief thing you are dealing with in that location. I would try running the light over by Timberlawn Park - hang on or between some of the trees at the edge of the basketball court that face the forest.

Publicado por damontighe hace más de 2 años (Marca)

Really, 3 am! @tmurray74 mentioned that "the volume of bugs doubles from 11 pm to 1 am and later" up in Massachusetts. Assuming one also needs to sleep what 3-hour window of the night would be best?

Publicado por edanko hace más de 2 años (Marca)

Sleep? Sleep is for wussies! ;) I can go a week without seeing anything of real interest and then one night it's like they all decided to come out. Time of night definitely makes a difference, as does weather (fronts, wind, rain, etc). I turn the light on at dusk and practically ignore it until all the midges are gone (1.5-2 hrs.) I'll get some good stuff between 10pm and midnight. The sheet is calmer and things aren't flying around as much. I usually get some really great micromoths then too. Midnight-2am is either really good or really dead. I get more silk moths in that window of time. This is all in my suburban neighborhood, so I have plenty of nearby light pollution, but I still get good stuff.

When I was mothing in Costa Rica, the moths were non-stop and filling the entire sheet night after night all night. I photographed until 3am, slept until 5am, photographed again before the birds got to them at 6am, and napped in the afternoon.

Publicado por kimberlietx hace más de 2 años (Marca)

Slippery slope indeed @damontighe Many thanks for your post here. Picked up a 10W 395-400nm led light and a 30000mAh power bank from online. From just 4 nights moth sheeting have already seen many moths hitherto unknown to me. Tonnes of fun to be had from such an inexpensive and highly portable set up.

Publicado por jimbobo hace más de 1 año (Marca)

@jimbobo - glad to see you've got a system up and running for yourself!! they are tons of fun and since it so light you can really take it any place. I'm really happy to see so many people getting use out of this system. Just checked the stats at the system has helped iNat'ers see >6,000 observation and 1,500 species ! Observation Field = 395-400 nm LED

Publicado por damontighe hace más de 1 año (Marca)

Has anyone found a good sheet/shower curtain with a nice woven/printed grid?

Publicado por carrieseltzer hace más de 1 año (Marca)

@carrieseltzer - this is what I've been using:
It has a small weave which allows moths, beetles, etc to grip and yet doesn't actually get wet, which is really nice.
Here is an example photo with my macro lens on a beetle that allows you to see the texture:

Publicado por damontighe hace más de 1 año (Marca)

The calnature link appears to be...broken.

Publicado por aispinsects hace alrededor de 1 año (Marca)
Publicado por damontighe hace alrededor de 1 año (Marca)

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