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Submission of Moth Records

Interest in moth recording has seen significant growth in recent years, and as hobbies go, it is one that has the potential to add significant knowledge of ecosystems, habitat changes, climate change, etc. I fully appreciate therefore, that many people visiting this website are doing so as part of that hobby. However, if you are able to submit any sightings and records for the vice county, I would be very keen to receive them – no matter if from the previous year, or gleaned from old notebooks from times past, or simply as a casual observer. I hope to explain a bit more about how that aspect of the group now works.

Where to send records

Please submit records of all moth species (macro and micro) to the County Moth Recorder, Mark Hammond (contact details at foot of page), for verification. Other experienced recorders around the county also provide advice and identification assistance, and I’d appreciate that any records you have be sent to Mark at the end of the season (or sooner if you think the record is noteworthy). If you also have old records that have not been previously submitted, we would also welcome these at any time.

What is “a record”?

As mentioned above, a record could simply be as a result of casual observations when out for a walk, to a full list of all species seen on a given daye, with at least an indication of numbers seen, if not an actual count. And of course, anything in between! The preference is for as much detail as possible, and hence if for instance, you are regularly running a moth trap in your garden, a list of species each night with numbers would be absolutely perfect. These data can be submitted in a variety of ways, as described below.

How to submit records

Records are accepted in any format, but electronically via email is very much the preferred method. Ideally, as much detail as possible is desirable – an ideal situation is where the totals of moths for each recording session is listed separately. These are preferable to an annual summary list, as these data will allow for much greater analysation in terms of flight periods, fluctuations in numbers from year to year, etc.

Excel spreadsheets

The Downloadable Recorder’s Card – this can be used to summarise your year’s records, or used for individual recording sessions throughout the year
Individual notes and observations by email, etc
On-line recording systems as mentioned below. In all cases, records are repatriated to County Recorders for verification and inclusion into the county database at the end of the recording year.

  • (A) Butterfly Conservation host an on-line record system under the Moths Count site: BC Moth Recording System.
  • (B) Living Record provides you with your own records system and access to a selection of distribution maps. Records are reviewed and passed on to local record centres and to organisations working for conservation.
  • (C) By joining iRecord at you can share your sightings with the recording community, explore dynamic maps and graphs of your data and make a real contribution to science and conservation.

The Northants moth database currently contains approximately 325,000 records, and is growing all the time as new and archival material is added. These data are held locally by the County Moth Recorder, by the Northamptonshire Biodiversity Records Office and are also submitted regularly to the National Moth Recording Scheme database hosted by Butterfly Conservation. Data for the whole country can now be viewed via the Moths Count which in turn is uploaded to the National Biodiversity Network Gateway – viewable as dot-maps for each species.


The preferred method of submission is an Excel Spreadsheet compatible with a MapMate input file. MapMate is a software programme developed especially for natural history recording. It is cheap and easy to use. Current purchase cost is £25, with a £12 annual licence fee to cover continual updates to features and taxonomic data. The basis of biological recording results in one record per line the most accurate therefore being a summary of the numbers of each species seen on a given occasion using a given method. One quick way to export records from MapMate is this:

  • Open the data entry window in MapMate. Make sure you have filters set to all sites and all moth species.
  • Put in a date range that will include all your records, e.g. “2015”, and press Enter (will select all records from that year).
  • Go to the Query menu in the Data Entry window and run “Records in Export Format”. This will produce a browse list of all your records in the correct format for subsequent import back into MapMate.

Save direct to a text file from the browse list.

The number of moth recorders is ever increasing, and so the burden on the County Recorder has meant that electronic record collation is being performed by other individuals. Therefore it is only by individuals entering their own records that the system can be maintained. All records that are submitted, be they by email, hard copy or as an excel spreadsheet, will all be entered onto MapMate. Therefore please ensure that the following information is submitted for each record, and if sent as an excel file please put one record on each line with these items along the top row:

Species name – English and scientific name – MapMate entry only requires the scientific name, but for ease of reference, please be sure to include the English name in a separate column. It is useful but not essential to have Bradley and Fletcher numbers also. A full list of Northants moth species is available on the web site and a full VC32 species list is available in this Excel spreadsheet linked here (downloadable).

Quantity – precise number please, however, if numbers weren’t precisely counted, an estimate is preferred over a simple indication of presence. Where the recorder has no idea of quantity, then 0 (zero) can be used simply to indicate presence.

Site name please use names as presented on the Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 or 1:25,000 maps where possible. Feel free to be as specific as you can, e.g. indicate the part of a wood (e.g. Fermyn Woods Royal Coppice).

Grid reference – six-figure is preferred, or at least four-figure.
Recorder’s name your name!

Determiner’s name – if different from the recorder i.e. who identified it. This is important if there are any queries over the identification. It is also good etiquette to credit the actual identifier.

Method – e.g. daytime observation, Pheromone Lure, or MV Light Trap.

If you are new to MapMate, or would like any further advice regarding the submission of records in electronic format, then please contact Mark Hammond for advice.


As indicated above, there are several related species where great care is needed to establish the correct identification, and require careful consultation of the literature until you are familiar with all the salient identification features. The micro moths are slightly more tricky than most macro moths, and therefore some care is required for certain groups of moths. Remember also that there can be great variation within a species and also between the sexes of some species. Websites can also be a good source of photographs and information, but be aware that these come with a warning – as these are not strictly peer-reviewed and can therefore contain more errors than found within published reference books. Reference to more than a single source is strongly advised. Inexperienced recorders should also note that there are several difficult species that can only be safely determined by more detailed examination, including dissection of the genitalia.

Macro species regularly occurring in Northants that require caution:
• Red Twin-spot Carpet Xanthorhoe spadicearia / Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet Xanthorhoe ferrugata
• Riband Wave Idaea aversata / Plain Wave Idaea straminata
• Copper Underwing Amphipyra pyramidea / Svensson’s Copper Underwing Amphipyra berbera

Macro species regularly occurring in Northants that require supporting evidence of genitalia examination.
NB: These species will be aggregated if evidence not provided:
• November Moth Epirrita dilutata / Pale November Moth Epirrita christyi / Autumnal Moth Epirrita autumnata
• Dark Dagger Acronicta tridens / Grey Dagger Acronicta psi
• Marbled Minor Oligia strigilis / Rufous Minor Oligia versicolor / Tawny Marbled Minor Oligia latruncula
• Common Rustic Mesapamea secalis / Lesser Common Rustic Mesapamea didyma
• Ear Moth Amphipoea oculea / Other Ear species

In addition to those highlighted above, rarer migrants, rarer residents or pugs will need verification by someone familiar with the species either by producing the specimen or a good quality photograph (as indicated on the NMG website). The use of digital cameras has transformed the verification process but it should be borne in mind that species cannot always be identified with certainty from a photograph and it is always best to err on the side of caution in your recording. It is always best to retain any moth for which the identification is uncertain – even if a photograph has been taken – until it has been identified with certainty. This is especially so if that specimen is thought to be one of the rarer species in the county and essential if you believe this to be the first county record.