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Verification is the process of checking that the correct species has been identified. Even with a photo, this can sometimes be challenging depending on the species and photo quality. Without a photo, the verifier is reliant on the plausibility of the identification given the date, location, rarity or habitat. Verifiers often refer to their own or others’ past records, atlases and other reference books and national rules to help decide verification status. As verifier, you can choose what level at which to accept a record based on the level of certainty.

In this section we outline the essential steps of verification, including guidance on getting set up in iRecord and establishing your process. Please also see the section 6 on using verification tools.

Types of record and data presentation

Records currently arrive with County Recorders in multiple formats, these include emailed Excel spreadsheets, MapMate sync files; paper records; via iRecord, originating from linked online survey forms; or other recording portals, such as Living Record.

To streamline the number of formats you receive we recommend signposting preferred recording options to your local recorders who want to contribute to the UK recording schemes.

Butterfly Conservation directs recorders sharing occasional online records to our iRecord-linked survey forms: NMRS Online, BNM Online, iRecord butterflies, or Garden Butterfly Survey, if the recorder would like to keep a regular online log of butterflies in the garden. 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 will be direct data submissions by email to you. For these data, to ensure they are formatted correctly, we recommend you provide a spreadsheet template, see resources below.

Getting set up as a verifier in iRecord

Butterfly Conservation uses iRecord and we are directly involved in the continuing development of the platform based on user feedback. Many recorders now use iRecord to submit and store their butterfly and moth sightings. All of Butterfly Conservation’s online surveys, with the exception of the Big Butterfly Count are now linked to iRecord to improve dataflow and consistency.

You can validate and verify records within iRecord once you have registered with the iRecord system and your account is set up with an authorised Verifier role by the Biological Record Centre, part of the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH).

Once you are registered with Butterfly Conservation as a County Recorder or Verification Assistant, please also register on iRecord with your verifier email.

Next, please liaise with your Butterfly Conservation key volunteer contact to set up verifier rights on the system. Potential verifiers are only assigned rights by UKCEH with the agreement of the National Recording Schemes: Butterfly Conservation for butterflies or moths.

Responsibility area boundaries in iRecord can be vice-counties, administrative counties, Butterfly Conservation Branch or bespoke. We will discuss this with you.

Getting started verifying in iRecord

The iRecord verification panel is the area where registered verifiers get access to the inbuilt tools for verification. Verification decisions are made here and communications with recorders can be sent from here.

Because of the various sources of records, types of records and tools on offer, you have different options for making a systematic process in iRecord. This will also vary depending on which records are presented to you, for example, some Verification Assistants only see records for a selected range of species to fit their skill set.

Read our guide to establishing an iRecord verification routine. Please review the tool advice regarding verifying records with photographs or without in section 5-6, using verification tools.

Applying standard verification terms

There are three broad verification status terms (known as Verification Status 1 and in use by both iRecord and the NBN Atlas) that Butterfly Conservation recognise can be applied to a record. Please read this useful guide to the verification terms from iRecord.

Specific verification issues with moths

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 (Gen. Det.) 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 from the Butterfly Conservation website. The Moth Dissection Group website is a great resource to consult too. 

If the recorder has not kept a voucher specimen of a species that requires Gen. Det., it is possible to record the species as an aggregate. See below.

Incorporating historic moth records

Historical species lists of moths for an area or county are a valuable resource. They help to document the changes in the range, distribution and abundance of species over time. The species the lists describe as commonplace may now be scarce or even lost. Conversely, species we now take for granted may receive no mention or be considered rarities. Such information can be fascinating. It also gives us a better perspective when assessing modern trends.

If you are carrying out the data mobilisation of historic moth records, this guide on incorporating moth records from old lists, produced by Butterfly Conservation, gives an overview of some of the issues to be mindful of if you undertake this task. If you are confused or worried about the historical moth names you'll find the Checklist of the Lepidoptera of the British Isles helpful as it includes synonyms, see section 6 for details. 

Recognised species aggregates

In some cases it is appropriate to record a sighting to the level of species aggregate. Species aggregates that Butterfly Conservation recognise in the data we accept and manage include, but are not restricted to the following:

  • November Moth agg. (November Moth Epirrita dilutata, Pale November Moth Epirrita christyi, Autumnal Moth Epirrita autumnata,)
  • Dark Dagger/Grey Dagger agg. (Dark Dagger Acronicta tridens, Grey Dagger Acronicta psi)
  • Copper Underwing agg. (Copper Underwing Amphipyra pyramidea, Svennson’s Copper Underwing Amphipyra berbera)
  • Uncertain/Rustic agg. (Uncertain Hoplodrina octogeneria, Rustic Hoplodrina blanda)
  • Common Rustic agg, (Common Rustic Mesapamea secalis, Lesser Common Rustic Mesapamea didyma)
  • Marbled Minor agg. (Marbled Minor Oligia strigilis, Tawny Marbled Minor Oligia latruncula, Rufous Minor Oligia versicolor)
  • Ear Moth agg. (Saltern Ear Amphipoea fucosa, Large Ear Amphipoea lucens, Ear Moth Amphipoea oculea)

If a recorder frequently gets confusable species (such as Common / Lesser Common Rustic) they ought at least once and preferable annually, get some checked, so they know if one or both species are found at their site. 

How to query records with incorrect or uncertain information

As an iRecord verifier, if you spot an error or anomaly with a record you can query the information with the recorder. Simply click the Query button – as shown (question mark, circled red in the screenshot below) and a window will open that allows you to either add a comment to the record itself, or to send an email to the recorder.

Please add a comment to the record so there is an audit trail.

You can create templated responses for redeterminations or adding comments to a record to save you from writing out a new comment each time. Guidance on using templates can be found here.

The recorder will be notified of your query and will hopefully respond with the requested information. Please note that comments are viewable by anyone using iRecord; no personal information e.g. email address or phone numbers should be used in the query.

An alternative way to contact the recorder is by selecting the send an email option. An email template is generated by iRecord and you can edit the text accordingly.

Either option results in the record being flagged in iRecord as having been queried and will be removed from the default “Pending” set of records in the verification grid. Previously queried records can be found by setting the Status filter to “Queried” and will remain here until the recorder responds or until the verifier changes the verification status of the record.

Micro-moth verification specialists

Across the UK there is a network of Verification Specialists who deal with micro-moth verification. These volunteers are available to help you with your micro-moth verification. The network operates at a regional and national level. If a regional verification specialist is unable to confirm the identification of a species it can be escalated to the national experts.

Contact your regional (or national) specialist for advice and assistance with verifying micro-moth records. A list of these experts can be found on your Assemble documents when you're registered with a County Moth Recorder role.


Verification is a vital step to ensure that the details of the record and the species identifications are complete and correct. A verifier can choose what level at which to accept a record based on their level of certainty. Only records validated and verified by County Recorders and their Verification Assistants enter the National Recording Schemes run by Butterfly Conservation. A number of tools are available to you to assist with your systematic process. This includes tools within iRecord, offline tools and peer support.