Butterfly Conservation - saving butterflies, moths and their habitats
Butterfly Conservation
saving butterflies, moths and their habitats
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Successful conservation of butterflies and moths is dependent on accurate and up to date information about the distribution and abundance of the species in question.  By monitoring moths and butterflies we can, for example, detect when populations go into decline and can therefore begin the process of investigating the causes of the decline and hopefully reversing them.  If we know accurately where our rarer or more threatened species occur we can start to ensure that the key sites and habitats are protected.  And when we are in the process of implementing measures to protect a butterfly or moth population, monitoring is also important to enable us to determine if the measures are effective.  Conversely, in the absence of reliable data on butterfly and moth distribution and abundance we may fail to realise a species is in trouble until it is too late to do anything about it or we may allow a site to be destroyed because we do not recognise its importance for lepidoptera.  For all of these reasons it is vitally important that we continue to collect records of butterflies and moths within our region.

This is an activity that anybody can contribute to and every record that is sent in, whether of a common and widespread 'garden' species or of a threatened rarity, is of value in contributing to 'the bigger picture' of the health of our lepidopteran fauna.  So whether you are a keen moth trapper, a butterfly expert or someone who just likes to look at the butterflies encountered whilst enjoying a walk in the countryside, please keep a note of the species you see and send in the details to the County Recorders as explained below.

Several different arrangements are in place for the submission of records, depending on whether it is a moth or a butterfly record and whether it relates to Durham or Northumberland:

RECORDING LOCATION.  All recording schemes require accurate details of the location in the form of a grid reference (at least four figures and preferably six-figures) and a location name.  Ordnance Survey maps (Landranger 1:50000 series and Explorer 1:25000 series) provide instructions on how to read off a grid-reference from the map in the information given at the right hand side of the map sheet.  You can also use an on-line tool to determine the grid reference and a link to this tool is given in the left hand margin of this page.


Three main categories of records of butterflies are collected, namely transects, Butterflies of the Wider Countryside Survey and casual records.


Transects involve the weekly walking of a fixed route throughout the butterfly flight season and recording the numbers of different species encountered.  For details of how to set up a transect and where to submit the records please click here. or contact Val Standen .

Butterflies of the Wider Countryside Survey

The method involves making a minimum of two visits to a randomly selected square (squares are selected randomly by the survey managers; recorders can choose from a list of pre-selected squares) between May and August to count butterflies along two 1km survey lines running roughly north-south through the square.  The survey is co-ordinated centrally by Butterfly Conservation but with the help of a WCBS Champion in each Branch; in North East England the WCBS Champion is Val Standen.  The aim is to re-survey all of the squares in the survey, using the same methodology, every year.  Further details are given here.

Casual Records

'Casual records' refers to records of butterflies made other than through a transect scheme.  Although the information collected in this way is less systematic than that produced from transects it is nevertheless extremely valuable, not least because it tends to produce a much wider coverage of the region than is possible through transects.  A single data-base of records is maintained for Durham and Northumberland but a separate Recorder is responsible for each county.  The Butterfly Recorder for Durham and Northumberland is Steve Kirtley.  Records can be submitted via the online tool on this website or by e-mail.  Records can also be submitted via iRecord.  To avoid duplication of records please use one method only for each record.  A common e-mail address is used for Northumberland and Durham records: .  If you are e-mailing a spreadsheet of your records it is most convenient to do this in one batch at the end of the season preferably by 30th November each year.  Records can be added to the recording tool as you go along.  A spreadsheet for recording butterflies can be ownloaded here.  The spreadsheet includes further details of what information to record and where to send it.  Records submitted via the reporting tool may be viewed via the 'vie butterfly sightings link in the page menu in the left hand margin.


Moth records are held in separate databases for Durham and Northumberland.  For County Durham the Recorders is Tim Barker .  A spreadsheet for the submission of moth records from County Durham can be downloaded from here
For Northumberland it is requested that records should be submitted to the iRecord app.  Northumberland records are verified by David Howdon, Stewart Sexton and Mike Cook.


It is important that records are accurate and reliable and one of the responsibilities of the Recorders is to check the validity of all records received.  For common, widespread and easily identified species records will normally be accepted without query but in some cases the observer will be asked to provide supporting evidence in the form of detailled written descriptions, photographs or sight of the specimen (moths can be kept captive for a day or two in a pot in a cool place without being harmed).  Instances where this is likely to occur are when the species in question has been rarely or never previously recorded in the region, if it has been recorded outside its previously known range or flight period or if it is a difficult to identify species.  Butterflies for which supporting evidence will normally be required are Essex Skipper, Brown Argus, Large Tortoiseshell, Camberwell Beauty, Gatekeeper, and Brimstone.  Our Recording Committee will review records of these species as well as any records for which there may be any grounds for uncertainty. 

For Northumberland moths, guidance regarding species that would typically require supporting evidence is given at the link indicated above on the Northumberland Moths web-site.  No specific guidance is published for Durham but the Northumberland guidelines will be more or less applicable to Durham in many cases.  If in doubt provide a photograph and/or description!

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