In this section:


The County Recorder, or for particular cases the Verification Assistant, is responsible for deciding the likelihood of a record being correct, or if appropriate, redetermining the identification. The difficulty of this decision varies depending on the available evidence and the species in question. Below you will find a range of resources in support of verification identifications for moths and butterflies.

Macro-moth grading guidance

Butterfly Conservation has produced National Grading Guidelines for the UK’s macro-moths to help recorders assess the difficulty rating, and therefore if further evidence is required to back up the suggested identity. The National Grading Guidelines can be found here as a Macro-moth grading pdf. This list is also available as an Macro-moth grading spreadsheet (zip).

British and Irish moths: an illustrated guide to selected difficult species

Although generally much easier to identify than micro-moths, there are a few tricky macro-moth species that need extra care. These are species that look very similar to other species or species that have a restricted range so further evidence is needed to support the sighting for example a photograph or a specimen. Some moths cannot be identified from external features and so genitalia dissection is required to determine their identity. British and Irish moths: an illustrated guide to selected difficult species (covering the use of genitalia characters and other features) was published by Butterfly Conservation in 2010, and although the book is out of print, it is available to download here.

Micro-moth grading guidance

There are some micro-moth species that are frequently encountered in gardens and are distinctive enough for even beginners to identify. For those micro-moths that are less distinctive, National Verification Grading Guidance has been produced and is available as a Micro-moth grading pdf or a Micro-moth grading spreadsheet (zip).

This guidance details the species for which additional evidence, e.g., a photograph or specimen may be required by the County Moth Recorder to confirm the identification. The guidance includes adult moths and also species more regularly recorded as leaf-mines or as larval cases.

Peer support for micro-moths

In addition to the guides, there are some extremely knowledgeable experts on hand to assist with the determination of micro-moths. Please refer to the list of National and Regional Verification Panel members which can be found in Assemble.

There are also Facebook groups e.g. micro moth field tips, UK micro moth identification and the moth dissection group website.

Getting started with micro-moths

The following documents include content originally written by micro-moth expert and national verification volunteer Mark Young, adapted with kind permission for this toolkit by Zoë Randle. This series of documents provides information for recorders on how to get started with micro-moths. It includes an introduction, some tips on how to begin, recommendations for books, websites and resources, as well as a photographic guide to recognising the main families, and advice on how to rear micro-moths.

Online Resources

The DECIDE tool has been developed using BNM and NMRS data for recorders to encourage recording in under recorded areas to generate records where they are needed most.

We have created a list of useful moth related websites covering identification, in Britain, Ireland and Europe; Country, County & Regional Websites, Equipment, Mapping & Recording Schemes and Journals & Societies. County Butterfly Recorders can refer to this similar list of useful websites for butterflies. Let us know if you have recommendations for additional links.

The Moth Dissection Group website is excellent and provides images of British and European species of butterflies and moths. It includes images of microscope slide preparations of genitalia dissections along with images of the different life stages. You can also upload your own images of slide preparations and different life stages of species. These uploads are moderated so be aware some may not be accepted.

There are also many fantastic moth books available to buy or borrow. We have updated this useful bibliography for moths. And we have created a similar Bibliography for butterflies for your reference.


Determining the identification of species records is one of the most challenging and enjoyable aspects of the County Recorder workload. It is an area for which peer support and learning resources are well developed. Please let us know if you have additional resources that we should signpost here.