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The suction light trap (LT) is a standard tool used to capture Culicoides biting midges, when estimating abundances, and mapping species ranges. The exact range of attraction of the LT is in dispute, however, with several studies indicating the range to vary widely, between 4 and 50 m. In this study, the attractant range of a LT, set at various distances (0, 1, 2, 3, 5 and 8 m) from a cow tethered at pasture, is assessed in two trials conducted on a dairy farm in the Netherlands in 2013 and 2014. In the first trial, sweep-netting and light-trapping was performed concurrently. Although a Spearman Rank correlation of 0.89 (P = 0.03) showed the two sets of abundance results to be highly correlated, species prevalence differed significantly according to the method used: the Culicoides obsoletus complex dominated the LT observations, whereas Culicoides chiopterus and Culicoides dewulfi were more abundant in those obtained by sweep-net, due to the former taxon being largely nocturnal, the latter diurnal. There is a distinct negative logarithmic relationship between Culicoides abundance and distance from the vertebrate host, with midge abundance, in the LT, increasing significantly only when it is placed very close to the bait animal, at a distance of 0–1 m. The sharp decay function in the number of Culicoides caught with increasing distance from the LT, limits the comparison of LT surveillance data obtained under various settings, even from within a climatically homogeneous geographical region such as north-western Europe.