Moth Recording

People have been studying and recording moths in the UK for centuries. Today, as in the past, the main motivation is personal enjoyment. Moths are amazing, beautiful, diverse, and they are all around us. However, by passing on sightings (records) a fun pastime can also provide vital resources to underpin nature conservation.
We cannot conserve moths, or any other wildlife, unless we know where they are. Furthermore, it is important to prioritise action for those moth species that are most threatened. Recording is the foundation for protecting these insects.
Butterfly Conservation's Moths Count website contains a wealth of information on how and why we should record moths.


Moths can be difficult to identify. Fortunately there are plenty of resources (books and web sites) that can help.
The recommended macro-moth identification book is the third edition of The Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland by Paul Waring and Martin Townsend (2017, Bloomsbury Natural History, ISBN 978-1-4729-3030-9). It contains artwork by Richard Lewington that depicts the 900 or so larger British moth species in their natural resting positions. A cheaper alternative is the Concise Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland by the same authors (2007, British Wildlife Publishing, ISBN 978-0-9531399-6-5). The other standard work is the third edition of the Colour Identification Guide to Moths of the British Isles by Bernard Skinner (2009, Apollo Books, ISBN 978-87-88757-90-3). The illustrations take the form of photographs of set specimens, which means that the hind wings (often important for identification) are clearly shown.
For micro-moths, the Field Guide to the Micro-moths of Great Britain and Ireland by Phil Sterling and Mark Parsons was first published in 2012 and covers just over 1,000 of them (British Wildlife Publishing, ISBN 978-0-9564902-1-6). Similar in style and format to the larger moth field guide, the illustrations are by Richard Lewington.
On the web the most comprehensive coverage of all British moths is the UK Moths website run by Ian Kimber. Some 2,000 of the 2,400 species on the British list are currently illustrated there.


The Upper Thames Branch has three County Moth Recorders, one for each of the counties covered by the Branch: Please send your moth records to the appropriate Recorder. The Recorders can help you to identify moths, but they may need to see a good quality photo or the moth specimen to confirm identifications. If you think you have found a rare moth then please contact your county Recorder as soon as possible .
The County Moth Recorder needs the following information in order to add a moth record to their database:
  • Species name
  • Location, preferably giving an OS grid reference, detailed address or postcode
  • Date of sighting
  • Name of person doing the recording
Biological recording uses the "vice-county" system, which means that county boundaries are roughly equivalent to those in use before 1974. The biggest difference is that much of what is now south-west Oxfordshire (i.e. from the Thames south-westwards) is in VC22 (Berkshire) for recording purposes. Similarly, Slough is in VC24 (Buckinghamshire) and Stokenchurch is in VC23 (Oxfordshire). The website Herbaria at Home is a useful resource for finding out the Vice-county from a grid reference.
Records can also be submitted using the iRecord website or app.