Notes on the database

The following notes provide information on searching the database and understanding the results.

Searching the database

Quick search links

Clicking on 'Typical British butterflies' or 'Typical British moths' will lead to thumbnail images of typical specimens (not forms or aberrations). Clicking on an image will take you an enlarged imaged and by clicking on 'view specimen details'  to page for that species where the data label (image or databased) can be found.

Taxon search

This allows a more detailed interrogation of the database. For scientific name search, name type must be set to scientific and for common name search name type must be set to common. Taxon name can be Suborder, Family, Subfamily, Genus or Species. To search for forms and aberration check the tickbox. Only complete names will give a return. Provenance allows the user to narrow the search by not including rare migrant or adventive species. Options allow the user to show just males, females or both sexes. When search for butterflies there is an option to show undersides.  Output format allows the user to have a gallery of up to 240 images per screen or a list of taxa. Sort order can follow the European checklist (default), the Bradley checklist or alphabetically by common name.

Specimen search

This allows the user to find a specimen from a particular country, county or locality. It also allows the user to search for a collector. The country and county have a drop down list and the locality and collector fields can allow text of any length to be entered. The taxon name, provenance and options are the same as in the taxon search.

Understanding the database results

Checklist numbers

Two checklist numbers accompany each specimen form the following works:

  • The European checklist number is taken from The Lepidoptera of Europe: a distributional checklist. Karsholt & Razowski (eds). Apollo Books, 1996.
  • The Bradley number taken from Checklist of Lepidoptera Recorded from the British Isles, Bradley J.D., Bradley, 2000.
  • The default taxonomic sort order follows the European checklist but this can be set to the taxonomic order in the Bradley checklist if required.
Specimen number

This is the unique number allocated (and attached) to the digitally imaged specimens in the National Collection.

Family, subfamily, genus, species, species author and year

The nomenclature follows The Lepidoptera of Europe: a distributional checklist. Karsholt & Razowski (eds). Apollo Books, 1996.

Common names, subspecies, subspecies author, year

The nomenclature follows The moths and butterflies of Great Britain and Ireland. Emmet and Heath (eds). Vol.7: 1 Hesperiidae - Nymphalidae the butterflies. Harley Books, 1989.
Authors' name in brackets indicates that the taxon was originally described in a different genus.

Infrasubspecies, infrasubspecies author, year

The nomenclature follows - Aberrational and Subspecific Forms of British Lepidoptera, Vols. 1-4. Goodson & Read. Unpublished manuscript.

In this database, infrasubspecies refers to aberrations or forms. These names are not governed by the Rules of Zoological Nomenclature and as such do not have any accepted taxonomic status. However they are widely used by those interested in the study of variation. Some aberrations are unnamed in the National Collection and appear in the database as ab. It is no longer Museum policy to describe new aberrations of Lepidoptera.


This is given as a range except where the size is aberrant or where only a small number of specimens are shown.


Indicates sex of specimen.

Upperside or underside

Indicates whether upperside or underside is shown (butterflies only).

Type status

This indicates whether the specimen shown is a type specimen.

Country, county, place, collection date and collector

For butterflies this information was obtained from data labels attached to the specimens and databased. Some specimens have no locality data or date. Anything in square parentheses [ ] has been inferred e.g. Country and does not appear on the data label. If the data label or part of the data label could not be read then this is indicated by [illegible]. The data appears in the database as it is written on the data label including any punctuation and spelling errors. Some data labels were wholly in upper case but this has been ignored for the purpose of the database.

For larger moths the data labels were imaged rather than databased.