Elephant hawk moth

Grow food for moths

Grow flowers that release their scent in the evening and put on the outdoor lights to see which of the UK's moths live in your garden.

Get ready

There are around 2,500 types of moth in the UK, and they are an essential part of the food chain.

If you attract moths, you may well get bats too – as they love a tasty moth or two. 

You could also give your mower a rest. Longer grasses, thistles and knapweeds provide food for many moths.

Many moths are exquisitely marked, and some are incredibly colourful, too. You may well be surprised by what you attract. 

Growing plants is a lovely activity for the whole family - kids love digging holes, sowing seeds and watching plants grow.

What you will need

  • Moth-friendly plants (see below for a list)
  • Somewhere to plant the plants
  • Trowel
  • Watering can
Poplar hawk-moth in grass

1. Select a space

This activity is all about growing the right flowers that moths need for the nectar that they eat.

Select a space where you have room to grow more, whether it be in a border or in pots.

If you want, you can create a whole border selected for moths, but it's fine if you grow them in amongst your other flowers.

 Gardenroom doorway and herbacous borders, Norfolk
Garden flowers

2. The best plants

2. Buy or grow a selection of the best nectar-rich plants for moths.  For night-flying moths in summer plant:

  • Nicotiana alata - grow in the flower bed
  • Jasmine - a climber to grow up a trellis
  • Honeysuckle - a climber to grow up a trellis or into a tree
  • Hemp-agrimony - a perennial plant about 1m tall, with soft, lilac heads of flowers, that will form a bigger and bigger clump each year
  • Sweet rocket - a beautiful plant for the flower border you can grow from seed each year.
Honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum, close up

3. Don't forget the caterpillars

Remember moths also need plants for their caterpillars to feed on. Different species eat different plants, so your garden will be home to many moth species if you grow a bounty of trees, shrubs, flowers and grass.

The greener your garden, the better it will be for moths. Where you put your plants will depend on the conditions they flourish in, so check the planting recommendations they come with.

Maintain your plants by watering them in dry weather. Where you can, use water collected in a water butt.

Vapourer moth caterpillar

4. Go moth-spotting

Once you have your plants in place, go moth spotting. At night, walk around with a torch, looking to see if any visitors are drinking the nectar from your flowers.

If you have an outside light, turn it on and see what moths are drawn there, especially to any white wall nearby.

Watch out for more fun moth activities in future Wild Wednesday emails!

Brimstone moth
Burnished brass moth
Elephant hawk moth
Elephant hawk-moth on finger
Garden tiger moth
Garden tiger moth
Green silver-lines moth
Oak beauty moths

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