Pheromone and light traps have often been used in ecological studies of two major noctuid pests of agriculture in Australia, Helicoverpa armigera and H. punctigera. However, results from these two methods have rarely been compared directly. We set pheromone and light traps adjacent to or amongst cotton and various other crops for 10–11 years in the Namoi Valley, in northern New South Wales, Australia. Catches in pheromone traps suggested a major peak in (male) numbers of H. punctigera in early spring, with relatively few moths caught later in the summer cropping season. In contrast, (male) H. armigera were most abundant in late summer. Similar trends were apparent for catches of both male and female H. armigera in light traps, but both sexes of H. punctigera were mostly caught in mid-summer. For both species, males were more commonly caught than females. These catch patterns differed from some previous reports. At least three generations of both species were apparent in the catches. There was some evidence that the abundance of later generations could be predicted from the size of earlier generations; but, unlike previous authors, we found no positive relationships between local winter rainfall and subsequent catches of moths, nor did we find persuasive evidence of correlations between autumn and winter rainfall in central Australia and the abundance of subsequent 1st generation H. punctigera moths. Female H. punctigera were consistently more mature (gravid) and more frequently mated than those of H. armigera. Overall, our results highlight the variability in trap catches of these two species and question the use of trap catches and weather as predictors of future abundance in cropping regions.