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Only validated and verified records enter the Butterflies for the New Millennium (BNM) and National Moth Recording Scheme (NMRS) databases. This ensures data quality to inform our conservation, research, and advocacy objectives. County Recorders are responsible for accepting or rejecting records in their area based on their local knowledge of species distributions and flight times.

Once a record has been submitted to you as County Recorder, you carry out validation and verification based on the information it contains. Validation and verification are two processes that help ensure records are correct and accurate. These terms are sometimes incorrectly used interchangeably, despite being different processes.

In this section we provide an overview of the principles and stages Butterfly Conservation recognises for validation and verification, which will help navigating the tools and resources for County Recorders carrying out these processes in sections 4-7.

What makes a record?

At minimum a butterfly or moth record needs the following attributes to enable you to carry out validation and verification:

Who, What, Where and When. Please see the Butterfly Conservation definitions and recommendations below.

Who - the recorder name This may be the recorder's real name, or a pseudonym - Butterfly Conservation considers that either is acceptable, so long as the recorder can be contacted to aid verification if necessary. Likewise, if recorders have a preference for their record to be shared anonymously, we recommend that this is honoured with a generic "Anonymous recorder" name, so the record can still be databased and used.
What - the name of the species We advise standardisation to the UK Species Inventory names, which we use in the national scheme databases and use of data entry systems and tools that work to this dictionary (see tools in sections 4-7).
Where - a grid reference This is preferably a six figure, or greater, precision grid reference, along with a location name taken from an Ordnance Survey map as a corroborating identifier, also useful for reporting. The location name should not be stored as “my garden” or a postal address for privacy and data protection reasons, and to make reporting more straightforward.
When - the date of the sighting Please note that records from moth traps are dated the night the trap was set.

In addition to the four key elements to a record - Who, What, Where and When - the following information is also valuable: quantity, life-stage – adult, larva, larval web, larval case, mine, pupa, cocoon, egg, etc. This information is required when entering data into the iRecord based platforms. For moth records, the sampling method, e.g. light trapping, day-time observation is also important - Butterfly Conservation's NMRS Online survey form collects all of these details during data entry.

If any of the record attributes need to be checked, please contact the recorder as per section 8 of this tool-kit.

Where to direct Butterfly Conservation Recorders?

Pre-validation and verification, there is data submission. As County Recorder, you will receive data in a variety of formats. The method used by recorders can have a big influence on your validation process.

For Butterfly Conservation recorders, who want to take part in the UK recording scheme, we recommend the following options are signposted.

For occasional and online recording of butterflies or moths please direct recorders to Butterfly Conservation online data submission forms which are iRecord-linked: NMRS Online, BNM Online, iRecord butterflies. For recorders who want to keep a regular online log of butterflies in the garden and contribute to the UK schemes, please direct to Garden Butterfly Survey. We have set these forms up to collect appropriate information and link with your iRecord verification panels.

For Butterfly Conservation recorders who prefer to record to a spreadsheet or use a database such as MapMate, especially those generating a lot of data, another option to explore is direct data submissions by email to you.

For Butterfly Conservation recorders interested in regular monitoring of butterflies, please direct to UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS).

To help with validation, we recommend sharing Butterfly Conservation guidance with your recorders on choice of data submission routes, see resources below. If you are a County Recorder who accepts spreadsheets, to ensure they are formatted correctly we recommend you provide a spreadsheet template, see resources in section 10.

Validation principles

Validation is the process of checking that data are in the correct format; this is important in maintaining accuracy. In order to validate the data, County Recorders (data managers) will check the format is correct for dates, grid references, species names and other fields. Guidance on formatting data for the BNM and NMRS can be found in section 10.

Validation stages

There are several steps in the checking of the accuracy of moth and butterfly records. Firstly, data are validated. This involves checking

  • the date format, the grid references and the
  • species name convention.

Once these checks are complete you may need to reformat the data or request additional information from recorders to move on to the verification stage. For further details and resources for these validation stages see section 4.

Verification principles

Verification is the process of establishing confirmation that the data are correct and accurate. Examples of biological record verification are geo-reference verification (checking the location is correct), phenological verification (checking the flight period is correct) and species ID verification (checking the identification is correct).

Verification stages

After validation comes verification. There are several different factors to consider when verifying butterfly or moth records, these include:

  • Is the record within the species known distribution and flight period?
  • How difficult is the species to identify and are there confusion species?
  • Does the species require Genitalia Dissection?
  • Is additional evidence required for accepting a species record?
  • What is the recorder’s / determiner’s knowledge / experience level?

iRecord has inbuilt rule checks to flag records that are outside of a species known distribution, flight period and species identification difficulty. See section 5 for how to get started in iRecord and section 6 for more resources on relevant iRecord verification tools.

If a record fails verification, you will need to seek further information from the recorder about their sighting for example photographic evidence or a voucher specimen. This is particularly true for many micro-moths and a few macro-moths that require genitalia dissection. However, recorders may wish to opt-out of lethal methods or collecting specimens, and in this instance this would result in the record not being accepted.

Communicating verification decisions with recorders

Without recorders, and the time and efforts they take, we would have no local databases and no UK recording schemes for our science and conservation! Your role in providing feedback to recorders about their records, be they accepted or rejected, is really important. Timely feedback from a County Recorder will thank, encourage, and help recorders to improve their skills and continue recording.

Please see the communication section 8 of this toolkit for more guidance and tools, including iRecord communications and template building instructions.


Best practice for validation and verification is to use a standardised protocol to ensure that all records are subjected to the same level of scrutiny. Tools to help with validation and verification include the NBN Record Cleaner software, the Moth Validation spreadsheet and Butterfly Validation spreadsheet. These tools perform automated checks and highlight records that require further scrutiny. We provide our recommended tools in section 4 and section 6 of this toolkit.