British Micro-Lepidoptera with Vernacular Names

The micro-moth vernacular, or common names used on the Norfolk moths website are taken from the publication - A Label and Checklist of the British Micro-Lepidoptera with Vernacular Names by Jim Porter 2002 (updated 2009 with subsequent new species entries made in collaboration with Jim Porter to present day.) The introduction from the original publication can be found below - Jim Wheeler.


Over 135 micro-moths have vernacular names according to the Checklist of Lepidoptera Recorded from the British Isles (Bradley, 2000). These include two tiny Nepticulids, nine of the Clothes-moth family, several Gracillariidae, nearly 20 per cent of the Yponomeutidae and four Coleophorids. Also seven Gelechiids are commonly named and an amazing fifty Tortrixes have been honoured. The Pyralids come second with thirty-five and most other families are represented by at least one example. So why not the rest?

Agreed, most named micro-moths are of pest status or so abundant to make people take notice, but some carry names due to their distinctiveness, attractiveness or large size. With English we have the most flexible language in the world and this is why almost all macro-lepidoptera have been allocated the names we all are familiar with. Every time a new macro-moth is recorded in Britain a vernacular name is almost immediately given. Meanwhile many starting to study micro-lepidoptera are confused by the pronunciation and meaning of scientific names. In 1947 Ian Heslop produced a checklist of British Butterflies and Moths including the names of all of the micros. Unfortunately, it never became popular and his naming of smaller moths was ridiculed by many. But we have moved on and nowadays moth recorders come from all walks of life.

Here I have attempted to give a logical name to those micro-moths that do not have vernacular names in general use and have based it loosely on Heslop's work and deeply considered what Emmet has written in his explanation of the scientific names for moths. Heslop's 'family' names are retained where suitable and many of the species names where acceptable. With those which were not really descriptive I have attempted to rectify in a logical sense. Targeting foodplant, habitat, distribution, diagnostic features and other anomalies that distinguish it from its closely allied species, I suggest these names for micro-moths. The listing runs numerically for convenience as this order suffers from constant changes (which are sometimes reversed or revised) and confusion. Whether or not the reader chooses to adopt them and use them is purely their choice. But I make no apology for bringing the smaller British moths into a perspective that all may understand.

Those unnamed species marked with one asterisk (*) in the listing indicate 'one-offs' allocated to the British list by accidental introduction from abroad or those considered to be extinct If English names have been used elsewhere they are included. Those moths that are considered to be just forms rather than true species and misidentifications are indicated by two asterisk (**). Some have been given vernacular names in the pest and these are included for curiosity and used if desired if they become a true species.

The booklet can be used as a label list for a representative collection of specimens (often necessary for future research). Also, more importantly, as a checklist when recording micro-lepidoptera in the field. I do hope people will not criticise this attempt to bring the smaller moths into everybody's clutches, by giving a descriptive name to many they may have seen in the past. But the study of British micro-lepidoptera is moving forwards and every encouragement must be made. Readers may want to suggest more suitable names if they feel justified, and so be it if the majority are in agreement. Thanks must go to Sam Thomas, Seth Gibson, Colin Hart and Dr. John Langmaid for their inspiration and input while compiling this list.

Bradley J.D. (2000) Checklist of Lepidoptera Recorded from the British Isles. Bradley.
Bradley J.D. & Fletcher D.S. (1979) A Recorder's Log Book or Label list for British Butterflies & Moths. Harley Books.
Emmet, A.M. (1991) The Scientific Names Of British Lepidoptera, Their History and Meaning. Harley Books.
Heslop, L R.P. (1947) Indexed Checklist of the British Lepidoptera, with the English name of the 2313 species. Watkins & Doncaster.

Jim Porter, October 2002

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