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Micro Moths for Beginners Workshop at Kilmorack - Saturday 24th March 2018

The workshop was led by Ross McIlwrath, a Natural Talent Trainee with The Conservation Volunteers and Butterfly Conservation, and attended by 13 Highland Branch BC members and David Hill, Bog Squad Project Officer.


It was a glorious sunny morning but cold and as the traps were gathered in we wondered if we would find anything in the traps.  We did, but only 6 macro species (Yellow-horned, Dotted Border, March Moth, Chestnut, Mottled Grey and to the surprise of all Rannoch Sprawler), plus one micro species which was kept for identification after we had heard what Ross had to tell us.  As we went back into the hall another 3 macro species were found around the door - two left over from last year - a Streak caught in a spider’s web and a Large Yellow Underwing squashed in the door jamb! Happily, the third species, Red Sword-grass, was fresh and alive.

Moth Traps


The aims of the day were for us to:


  •           Come away with a better understanding of the main micro-moth families and their features

  •           Be more aware of the resources available to aid identification of micros to a species level

  •           Become familiar with how to identify the “new season” target list species

  •           Have a go at some Micro-moth larva field craft


In Ross’ introduction, facts and figures were given to encourage us to start recording micros and he showed an interesting diagram (done by Douglas Boyes) of a simplified evolutionary tree covering some of the major Lepidoptera families that showed that the distinction between micro moths and macro moths has no basis in evolutionary history.



The resources that are available to aid in the identification of micro-moths were given, some were familiar e.g. the Field Guide to the Micro moths of Great Britain and Ireland (Sterling, Parsons, illustrated by Richard Lewington) but others e.g. the Gelechiid Recording Scheme were completely new to us.  It was good to hear that we shouldn’t expect to id all the individuals we get: they may be too worn; tricky; or require dissection.  Like the Macro-moths there are downloadable grading guidelines for the micro-moths www.mothscount.org/uploads/Micro-moth%20Grading%20Guidelines%20final.xlsx


Ross took us through most of the families pointing out what features would lead us to place the individual moths in that family.


Then onto the field craft:

  •           Daytime on warm/mild days are the best times to find micro-moths

  •           Vegetation bashing with a net is the most effective way

  •           Midday or Dusk the best times

  •           A net and hand lens (x15 recommended) was all we needed.


So it was out into the field to see if we could put our new found knowledge to use.  We had to look for the mines of Stigmella aurella agg. found on bramble leaves; Glyphipterix simpliciella larval holes on the stems of Cock’s foot Grass, the holes in birch catkins caused by Agonopterix assimilella and its yellow frass; and Coleophora cases on Rush seed heads.  I’m glad to say we found them all plus what Ross described as the flying saucer shaped Trifurcula immundella egg on broom.  And to round off an excellent day nicely, an Orange underwing flying in the afternoon sun.

By Barbara Brodie

In the Field




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