Butterflies & Moths

We’ve shared lots of mini beasts content with you in the last few weeks – from how to go on a mini beast hunt, to useful resources for National Insect week, some fun facts about nocturnal creatures as well as lots of wonderful pictures taken by our Rangers and volunteers.

A colourful moth on a leaf

For this week’s post, in honour of the Big Butterfly Count (17 July – 9 August) and National Moth Week (18-26 July), we’re going to focus on these winged insects. These two projects are other examples of Citizen Science and are great ways for you to learn more about the natural world around you while getting involved with important science.

A red admiral butterfly

Some butterfly and moth facts to get you started …

Butterflies and moths are part of the same insect family, Lepidoptera. This means ‘scaly-winged’ – thousands of tiny overlapping scales form their wings. The scales are made of a substance called chitin (pronounced ‘ky-tin’): this is a kind of sugar, and somewhat oddly enough it’s the same thing that mushrooms are made of!

A close up photograph of a blue butterfly wing

Butterflies fly during the day; some moths do too, but many are nocturnal (they fly at night). Here in the UK, there are 57 species (or ‘kinds’) of butterflies who live here and another two species which are migratory (that is they visit seasonally, almost as if they’re on holiday!). Compared to this, there are 2,500 species of moth found here.

Get involved!

The Big Butterfly Count is as simple as it sounds; get outside, count the butterflies you find and share your results! The website has all the resources you need, including a spotter sheet and information on how to complete your count.

Similarly, National Moth Week is dedicated to celebrating these often overlooked insects; it’s an opportunity to learn more about them and contribute to scientific data.

A Fritillary Butterfly

Looking to learn more? Butterfly Conservation has detailed information about both butterflies and moths – there’s even a dedicated page to moths called Moths Count.

  • While you’re out looking for them, consider the following:
  • What kinds of moths and butterflies have you seen?
  • How many of each kind have you found?
  • What colour or colours were they?
  • How big and what shape were their wings?
  • Were they alone or with other moths or butterflies?
  • Where did you find them – in grassy areas, around flowers, in woodland or in urban areas? Were they flying in the day or at night?

As always, we’d love to see your photos – share any pictures you take of these incredible insects with us.