Butterflies and moths are a beautiful and important part of the UK’s wildlife. They are highly sensitive indicators of the health of the environment and play crucial roles in the food chain as well as being pollinators of plants.
There are 59 species of butterfly and 2,500 species of moths in the UK, with more establishing every decade following migration from continental Europe. They are found from the shoreline to mountain top, and occur in a wide variety of habitats. Their caterpillars feed mainly on plants, but some moth species feed on roots, lichens and algae as well as other substances such wood and fur. Many species depend on a narrow range of plants or food types for their survival.
Butterflies and moths are one of the most threatened groups of wildlife. In the last 150 years, nearly 70 species have become extinct (4 butterflies and 65 moths). Our recording programmes show that around two-thirds of species are declining and over 170 species are threatened and listed as Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
Moths are often mistaken for butterflies and can be tricky to tell apart. Use this tool to discover what you may have seen.
Butterflies and moths can be seen at all times of the year, but sometimes they can take us by surprise.