Terms used in moth descriptions. As far as possible this website avoids the use of scientific terms where accepted English terms are unambiguous. However many are included in this list because other books and websites use them.
Bradley and Fletcher number (BF)
The main length of the body of an adult moth after the thorax
The relative occurrence of a species. Often measured using the so-
See also definition of
The winged stage in the life cycle of a moth
A crossline or crossband nearer the base than the centre of the wing
One of two long sensory appendages on the head of a moth. Often the male moth has a wider, more feathery antenna than the female -
The tip of a wing between the leading edge and the trailing edge
At the base of the wing
Where the wing is attached to the
Each British species of butterfly and moths has been allocated a number. These numbers are derived from "A Recorder's Log Book or Label List of British Butterflies and Moths" by J.D. Bradley and D.S. Fletcher.
In the future we may change to a decimal-
An area of a wing enclosed by veins
=Discal spot On some moths, such as pugs, the central cell is a relatively small dark spot.
Fine hairs -
The status of a moth that is widespread and frequent -
Another species so similar to the moth being studied that they are difficult to tell apart.
The leading edge of the wing when the moth is in flight
= fascia a band of colour across the wing from leading edge to trailing edge
a line of colour across the wing from leading edge to trailing edge
The male and female of a species are quite different in any or all of shape, size and wing patterns.
A cell near the centre of the wing which varies in shape from species to species and is useful in identification
= central spot or discal spot -
Nearer to the outer edge of the wing than the feature described -
The trailing edge of a wing when the moth is in flight
=crossband A broad band of colour across the wing from leading edge to trailing edge
The months when the adult moth is likely to be seen. Some moths have two or three
generations and so have more than one flight period. Flight periods may be different
in different parts of the country.
The leading wing when the moth is in flight -
The distance from the base of the forewing to the tip or apex (in mm)
Some moths may go through the complete life cycle from egg, larva and pupa to adult twice or even three times in a year. Each life cycle is a separate generation.
A moth of the family Geomitridae-
The wing which is behind when the moth is flying and often held underneath when the
moth is resting -
=reniform stigma A kidney-
The caterpillar -
Butterflies and moths together form a large group of insects defined as the order Lepidoptera. They are distinguished by the fact that colouring on their wings is made of scales
(from the Greek lepidos -
Refers to a species which is only found in some areas or some habitats. Used on its own 'local' often implies that the species is not common -
Describes a position on the wing midway between the base and the outer edge. Used to describe the position of a crossline or a crossband.
A species which does not normally over-
Each year billions of moths use upper air currents to fly here -
A moth of the large family
=oval mark -
= orbicular stigma A round or oval mark near the centre of the forewing on some moths, particularly Noctuids, and helpful in identifying species.
One of two small appendages arising from the mouth of a moth -
Occasionally two species can be separated by studying the palps.
The outer side of the centre of the wing, away from the base. Used to describe the position of a crossline or a crossband as near to the centre of the wing but towards the outer edge.
Nearer to the base of the wing than the feature described -
The third main stage in the life cycle of a moth -
=kidney mark -
The wings of all butterflies and moths are covered in tiny scales. This feature is a distinguishing character of this order of insects -
A group of scales standing out from the surface of the wing. These tufts often help in identification -
Refers to a moth species which is rare and seldom found. If a species is subject of concern it is regarded as
short for National Status
Each species of moth resident in the United Kingdom has been given a status showing how common or rare it is based on the National Record database.
The Joint Nature Conservation Committee has coordinated efforts and has produced
a database of all species of plant or animal which are rare, vulnerable or endangered
The criteria are based on the number of 10km squares on an OS map a species has been
recorded in :-
1 to 15 squares :-
For less rare species the status is often given as -
301 or more squares :-
As there are over 3000 10km squares in the United Kingdom the term 'common' by this
definition covers some species that are not normally seen. Compare with definition
A spot or mark on the wing of a distinctive colour. See reniform stigma and orbicular stigma
towards the base of the wing but away from it.
Towards the outer edge of the wing but away from it. E.g. If there are two crosslines or crossbands near the outer edge of the wing the subterminal one is nearer the centre of the wing than the terminal one.
The area near to the outer edge of the wing. E.g. A terminal crossline is the last crossline before the outer edge of the wing.
The outer edge of the wing -
The section of the body between the head and the abdomen, which wings and legs are attached to.
The trailing corner of the wing -
A moth of the large family
= tornus The trailing corner of the wing
= dorsum The trailing edge of a wing when the moth is in flight
The hindwing. The term is particularly used for noctuids and other moths where the hindwing is under the forewing when at rest.
One of the struts across the wing which strengthen it. Often obscured by the scales, but clearly marked in some species.
Refers to a species which is found all over the country or region -
The distance from the base of the forewing to the tip of the wing (
The distance from forewing tip to forewing tip of a moth with its wings fully extended -