How to record Lepidoptera

There are four essential components of a record, neatly summarised as what, where, when and by whom. Other fields should be used where appropriate

What. It is very helpful if the taxon name is correctly spelt. If you use the free recording spreadsheet (see below) then the names will be correct. (The same applies for anyone using MapMate). The binomial name is used here and trinomial names are (largely) avoided; Record information on lower classification categories such as subspecies, form, aberration etc in the comment field. Thus, do record both forms of the Riband Wave but not as separate records.

Where. Three components: site name, grid reference and vice-county. The site name should, ideally, be taken from an OS map - avoid using names familiar to yourself but meaningless to other people. If there is no obvious place name then you may have to resort to using the word 'Near', e.g. 'Nr. Trawsfynydd'. Alternatively, if the site name is well established and yet is not shown on the map, follow it by the place name of somewhere larger that is on the map. Details (or sub-sites) can be attached in brackets or preferably after a comma, e.g. Cors Goch, NE corner. Avoid using a postal address layout with names of ascending importance along the lines of: site, street, town, county, postcode, country. This is inappropriate for recording where the grid ref. gives the location and the site name merely provides a check that the grid. ref is correct.

The grid reference refers to the grid square in which the observation was made. The number of digits given implies the size of the grid square. Thus a six-figure grid reference, e.g. SH846326 implies a square with 100m sides, i.e. one hectare of land. Similarly a four figure grid ref. refers to a one-kilometre square, etc. In each case the clear implication is that the moth or butterfly was seen within the grid square specified. The use of a larger grid square may be appropriate for common species which are seen over an extended area. Thus if there are Green-veined Whites in all directions it is probably better to specify a large grid square rather than lots of small squares. Large squares are also useful when you are not quite sure of the precise location. A particluar problem arises when species are recorded along the length of a path (say) starting at one location and ending at another. These sightings can only be recorded as belonging to several small grid squares or a smaller number of large grid squares, possibly with a comment attached such as 'seen between SHxxxyyy and SHzzzttt. Central grid references (or site centroids) are much less desirable and if used the fact should be clearly stated in the comment field. (A central grid reference refers to a small grid square near the centre of the area within which the observations were made).

The vice-county can be found from the VC map viewable in this website or, if in doubt, from the BSBI Herbaria at Home link given.

When. Preferably the actual date in dd/mm/yyyy format. If this is not possible then give the month and year or just the year. A range-type date is also possible though much less desirable.

Whom. Self explanatory. (The preferred layout is A.B.Smith or Alan B.Smith. Use a semi-colon to separate recorders if there's more than one. E.g. A.B.Smith;J.C.Jones

Method. Many recorders like to give descriptions of their moth traps under this heading. Whether this information is of any conceivable interest is open to question; my own view is that 'to MV', 'to actinic' and 'by day' are adequate descriptions in most cases. Other methods worth picking out include, 'beating', 'sweeping', 'to pheromone lure', 'car headlights', 'to lighted window' and probably a few others. One other consideration applies when more than one method is used, e.g. dusking and light trapping. If the date and grid ref. are the same it is best to just make a single record rather than two.Ditto if two types of light trap are employed but the grid ref and date is the same then just one record, please.

Stage The life stage can only be one of: ova, larval, pupal, adult or 'not recorded' with a blank being taken to imply an adult. Cocoons, vacated leaf mines, emergence holes etc. are not life stages.

Sex Can be of interest so record this if possible. However, do not record the sexes separately as we only want one record for each species / date / grid ref combination  

Determiner. Usually the same as the recorder - this field can be left blank in most cases.

Reared butterflies and moths. The record date should refer to the date on which the ova / larva / pupa was collected and not the date when the imago emerged. The date of emergence can be given in the comment field along with details of the plant from which the early stage was collected. The reason for this preference is that reared individuals often emerge unusually early or late and if this date is recorded the flight time information for the species becomes less meaningful.

Weather information. Moth trappers often record the overnight weather but this information could be considered as virtually irrelevant to the biological record. I would suggest keeping such information to a minimum.

Where to send your records
All butterfly and moth records are of interest. Please send them to the appropriate Vice County Recorder. Contact details for the Vice-County Recorders can be found here: Moths, Butterflies. Alternatively, records can be sent to one or other of the two Local Record Centres covering North Wales: BIS (Biological Information Services for Montgomeryshire (VC47) and href="" Cofnod for the other counties. Remember that records sent anywhere else may never be entered into the county databases. (The county recorders cannot guarantee to monitor the sightings page on the North Wales BC Branch website, the flight-arrivals page on the Atropos website or any other internet forums or chat groups).

Recording Spreadsheet
The Vice-County Recorders will accept records in any form convenient. However, if you use MapMate then please do check with the VCR before sending your data as not all the VCRs use MapMate. A spreadsheet with the records listed row by row is universally acceptable and one possible version is available for download below. Some recorders like to use a cross tab spreadsheet with columns representing dates and rows as species and  this is a viable way of recording provided all the records are from the same place (as with garden moth traps). However, considerable work is needed to convert a cross-tab layout to the necessary database layout so the VCRs would prefer not to receive records laid out in this way.

Download the free North Wales Moth and Butterfly recording spreadsheet here  (This Excel file contains macros - that's how it works. Ignore any warnings and ensure that the macros are enabled).

This spreadsheet provides a fast and accurate method of entering records. Instructions are given within the spreadsheet. (See 'Instructions' tab at the bottom).