How to record butterflies and moths

There are several schemes in place in Dorset for monitoring our butterflies and moths

You can choose which method suit you best: whether you want to just note odd butterflies you see, or go out looking for them on a regular basis.

We welcome all sightings - just please do not send in the same sighting via more than one system.

Butterfly casual recording

This is for when you see butterflies anywhere and everywhere in the course of your daily life in Dorset - whether this is in town or country: we need both.

To report your casual sightings to us you can choose between three option, whichever is best for you:

  • You can fill in your records on our online recording form as you go - there is an interactive map to help you find the grid references you need.
  • If you like a bit of paper to fill in, download the casual record sheet and print it out.
  • If you are happy with having a spreadsheet on your computer to fill in as the year goes on,

Butterflies - filling the white holes

This is the next step on from casual recording. We record butterflies on a five-year cycle and aim to record in as many areas of Dorset as possible. As the five-year cycle goes on, we build up a map of where sightings have been made, and any areas without sightings show up as "white holes" on the map. See the White Holes page for more information. Report any butterflies you find in a White Hole in the same way as the casual recording sightings above.

Garden butterfly recording

For your sightings in your garden, there are two ways of recording;

  • You can use the paper Garden Recording Form, where you record the date you see the first of each species. Print it out, fill it in and send it to the person shown on the form at the end of the season.
  • You can use the national garden recording website. This allows you to record more than the first sighting and also to say how many of each species you saw at any time.

Both methods are fine by us, just please do not duplicate you recording, or we will think you are seeing more butterflies than you really are.

Recording the area around your home

A bit more than recording just in your garden, this asks you to record in the nine kilmetre squares which are centred on your house. If you like the idea but working out the area covered by the squares confuses you, contact Bill Shreeves for help via our Contact Form. To record what you see, use one of the methods for Butterfly Casual Recording, above.

Butterfly transect and target species recording

Transect walks are regular walks along pre-defined routes. Dorset is one of the best recorded counties in transect walk terms, but it means we need lots of people to help, all over Dorset. You can see a map of the location of the walks here.

Target species recording is aimed at those butterflies which are less common, so you are looking for a certain species and will be guided as to where and when you might find it.

If you are interested in becoming involved in either of these types of recording, please contact Bill Shreeves via our Contact Form .

Wider countryside butterfly survey

This is a national surve,y run by a broad partnership of organisations, which aims to reach “ordinary” parts of the countryside not covered by transect walks. This is intended to give a more accurate picture as to how butterflies are doing generally, as the transect walks tend to exist to record the rarer species or special habitats.

The WCBS was started in 2009 and runs as a partnership between Butterfly Conservation (BC), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), and supported and steered by Forestry Commission, Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, and Scottish Natural Heritage.  Participants include recorders from the BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) and BC’s volunteer network.

There are set areas within Dorset, to be monitored at least two times a year, in july and August. If you are interested, please contact Adrian Neil via our Contact Form.

Moth recording

There are quite a lot of day-flying moths, and even night-flying ones are sometimes seen in the day, especially if you disturb their resting place. If you are serious about seeing moths, you need a moth trap, which is run overnight to attract the moths so you can identify them and then let them go. You can report your sightings electronically via

A note on the Living Records and iRecord systems

Living Records and iRecord are ways of recording wildlife sightings that are not Butterfly Conservation systems.

If you are considering whether to record your sightings via the Living Records system or one of the methods listed on this page, the differences are basically:

  • If you record your butterfly sightings on this website (using our Sightings Form) your results will be published on this website (on our Sightings page).
  • If you use the other systems, your sightings will only be published in map form, but you are able to build up a list of your own records of butterflies, moths and other species.
  • Butterflies recorded on Living Records or iRecord will be added to the Dorset butterfly sightings list, so we ask that you do not enter your records via both systems. If you want to spread the word about something really exciting, tell us via our Contact Form and we can publish it as news instead.
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