While moths are decidedly famous for visiting lights, LAMPS, and all light sources in between (THANKS THOMAS EDISON), not all moths actively visit lights. Some, however, will visit trees that are painted with moth bait. Now I don’t know about you, but before I got into mothing, if you had asked me the question: “What do moths eat?” I definitely wouldn’t have included stale beer and rum in my recipe.

But here we are: One of the primary ingredients in moth bait is booze. (Specifically, stale beer, and often some rum.) The reason is simple: it’s got a strong scent, and when mixed in with some other ingredients, such as overripe fruit, and molasses, makes a sugary, pungent mix that drives many moths (and all sorts of other bugs) wild.

You can experiment with a number of different recipes, but my basic one is:

Moth Bait Ingredients
1 can of stale beer
1 shot of (cheap!) rum (moths are not exactly connoisseurs)
An overripe banana, smashed up
1 cup molasses
1 can canned fruit, liquid drained beforhand

Directions: Mix the liquids together, and use a fork to blend in the banana as best you can. Then add in the molasses and the canned fruit to the mix and stir very well. Then idea is to have something that smells absolutely atrocious, and is thick enough to stick to a tree when you paint it on. (You don’t want something super runny, as it’ll simply fall off, and then your dog will get into it and get sticky and smell terrible and your wife will be mad. TRUE MOTH STORY.)

Painting is the next step. An hour or so before dark, using a small paintbrush, paint the bait in a one-foot-by-one foot pattern on a tree. Then do the same for a few other trees. Once it’s dark, come outside periodically, with a flashlight, to see what showed up.

Note: My moth bait recipe is adapted from ones found in John Himmelman’s incredible book, Discovering Moths: Nightime Jewels in Your Own Backyard, and one I recall reading on the National Moth Week website. I also ALWAYS forget to buy molasses, and rum, so I’m often improvising with whatever smells bad, is sugary, and attracts critters.