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Moths Count workshop, Aigas Field Centre, 15th March 2008

Identifying difficult moth species and groups, including genitalia examination

A group of 14 people attended this event, led by Dr Mark Young of the School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, and Roy Leverton, County Moth Recorder for Banffshire (VC 94).

Mark gave an overview of the moths which were hardest to identify, and showed how features of their genitalia could distinguish them from their close relatives.

Roy gave an illustrated talk using slides of difficult-to-identify moths, pointing out distinctive features of wing pattern and thorax shape. He advised recorders to use every feature available in the process of identification - not just the moth's colour and markings but also its build, jizz and behaviour. Clues from the particular habitat, location and time of year may help too.

Mark recommended using the grading system contained in Tom Prescott's Highland moth recording checklist (pdf). By observing the grading criteria, recorders will avoid confusing rare moths with commoner species and help to ensure that the central database is accurate.

Mark also stressed the importance of accurate labelling of specimens and genitalia, which should include the trapper's name, location (possibly with grid ref) and date, adding further details if the data is published.

Other topics included the safe handling of chemicals used in the preparation of material for slides, and the sourcing of chemicals and equipment.

Mark recommended the Lepidoptera Dissection Group website, www.dissectiongroup.uk as a helpful guide to dissection techniques and materials.

The event concluded after 4pm, by which stage everyone had prepared a slide containing the genitalia of either the November Moth Epirrita dilutata or the Autumnal Moth Epirrita autumnata.

Aigas Field Centre was an ideal venue in scenic surroundings not far from Inverness. We're going back there in May for another workshop with Mark and Roy on caterpillars as well as general identification. We're fully booked!


Grade G moth species found in the Highlands - genetalia examination is mandatory to exclude related species. Download complete checklist (pdf).

November Moth
Epirrita dilutata

Pale November Moth
Epirrita christyi

Autumnal Moth
Epirrita autumnata

Marbled Minor
Oligia strigilis

Rufous Minor
Oligia versicolor

Tawny Marbled Minor
Oligia latruncula

Cloaked Minor
Mesoligia furuncula

Common Rustic
Mesapamea secalis

Lesser Common Rustic
Mesapamea didyma

Large Ear
Amphipoea lucens

Saltern Ear
Amphipoea fucosa

Crinan Ear
Amphipoea crinanensis

Ear Moth
Amphipoea oculea

Hoplodrina alsines

Hoplodrina blanda



Roy Leverton and Mark Young

Roy Leverton and Mark Young (Photo by T Mainwood)


Roy Leverton, Tony Mainwood and Tom Prescott.

Roy Leverton, Tony Mainwood and Tom Prescott
(Photo by B Slater)


Dissection practice

Dissection practice
(Photo by T Mainwood)


Workshop area

Workshop layout at
Aigas Field Centre
(Photo by T Mainwood)

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