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Identifying Moths -

About the website

Criteria for Identification

It is assumed that for each moth you will take a good photograph of the adult from above when it is resting. Some moths fold their wings over their bodies, so you may need a photograph from the side.
Characters such as underwing, underside marks will only be used if the species cannot be identified from wing markings.

You should record the length of the forewing from base to tip in any unknown moth. Some sources quote the wingspan but this is difficult to measure in a live moth.

Some identifications will also depend on the date the adult is recorded flying.

Sometimes two species are so similar and there is so much variation in one species that the size, the date and the forewing markings are not sufficient to differentiate between them. In this case either they will have to be killed and dissected to identify them - or it will have to be accepted that they cannot be identified exactly. In the latter case the confusion group is recorded e.g. “Epirrita Agg” indicates you know they are one of the genus Epirrita but not which one.

Using the website to identify a Moth

1. If you think you know the name of the moth type all or part of its English or Scientific name into the search box and press find. This will show any page containing this name.

2. If you don’t know what the moth is try to work out which of the main groups it is in :Tortrixes, Geometers, Noctuids or others. On the List and Pictures page there are thumbnails to help with this. Select a page by clicking a green button.

On a list and pictures page:-
  if you click any thumbnail you get an enlarged image; this can then be dragged by an edge to compare with other images;
  if this seems to be the wrong page try a nearby page by clicking ‘Next’ or ‘Previous’
  if you click a ‘Compare’ button it links to the Comparison page comparing that moth with others.


The website has been written by Tony Rackham

Photographs have been taken by the author unless stated otherwise. We are particularly grateful to Chris Piper, Dave Owen, Graeme Davis and Liz and Philip Rapley for their help with this.

Identify moths


Moth parts

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Identify moths


The purpose of the website is to make the identification of common moths easier using clear pictures and simple but unambiguous language.

Scientific terms are avoided unless they make an explanation simpler. There is a glossary and a set of diagrams which explain scientific terms to help with descriptions in other books and websites.

The main sources of information are:-

1. For each major group of moths there is a list and large pictures for all the moths included. The list has Common name (if there is one), Scientific name, Bradley and Fletcher number and brief details.

2. For each small group of similar moths there is a web page showing the differences using pictures, descriptions and pointers to the characters mentioned.

The Moth species illustrated

All the moths chosen are relatively common in the United Kingdom - either endemic or frequent migrants. If a species is only common in some parts this is stated on the ‘List and Pictures’ page.

The aim is to restrict the total number of species to less than 600. Roughly half of these are then compared with other similar species on the Comparison pages.

If a common species is easily confused with a much rarer species this is usually mentioned. If this is the case, a link is given to one of the Hantsmoths or Ukmoths websites to help.