This moths and butterflies course introduces the identification, life history, behaviour and conservation of these beautiful and fascinating insects.

This course will deliver a 2 day introduction to the identification and natural history of perhaps the most visually appealing of all insect groups. The course will also introduce key features for discrimination and will provide you with an understanding of the importance of these species for conservation, ecology and recording.

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Only live viewing techniques are used (e.g., light traps and sugaring for moths, sweep nets for butterflies), and you will explore the benefits and types of the different trapping methods with your expert tutor. You will spend your mornings in the lab learning to identify the families and species of moths caught overnight, and your afternoons seeking butterflies and day-flying moths in the field, benefiting from the rich range of habitats surrounding the Preston Montford Centre where your course will take place. Local butterfly species include Silver Washed Fritillary, White Admiral and Purple Hairstreak, and the larger moths include Poplar, Privet, Pine and Elephant Hawk Moths.

What will be covered during this course?

  • The course will be delivered through a combination of seminars, laboratory identification sessions and practical field work. Moths and butterflies will be caught for examination then released unharmed.
  • Different techniques for identifying adults and larvae in the Lepidoptera, examining a range of diagnostic features to separate out the genera, and in many cases tackling identification to species level.
  • The importance of Lepidoptera as biological indicators in the context of climate change and land use change.
  • The ecology of a number of key Lepioptera.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Identify and justify the identification of a range of common species within the Lepidoptera.
  • Explain and critically evaluate the importance of field guides and ecology in aiding identification.

Who Should Attend? – Natural history enthusiasts, students, rangers, ecologists, and environmental professionals. This intermediate level course is open to anyone with some knowledge of the subject. This course is for those aged 18 and over only.

Knowledge Level – Intermediate. Level descriptors can be found on the following web-page: Eco-Skills Framework and Course Level Descriptors

There are three booking options which all include course tuition, meals and refreshments:

  • Non-Resident (Breakfast not included)
  • Resident (Shared Room)
  • Resident (Sole Occupancy)

For course bookings including accommodation please note bathroom facilities may be shared.

MMU Student Information


This is one of a series of courses (units) run jointly with Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) contributing to the MSc Biological Recording and Ecological Monitoring and the Postgraduate Certificate in Biological Recording. MMU students complete assessed work after the course. For further details about Manchester Metropolitan University degree programmes please contact:

Department of Natural Sciences, Manchester Metropolitan University, (Shrewsbury Office). Email: [email protected]

  • See the ‘Example Timetable’ and ‘What’s Included’ sections below for more information about this course.
  • Upon booking you will need to provide individual details of all attendees.
    Please email [email protected] if you have any questions.


For Manchester Metropolitan University students, the Unit will be assessed through, for example, identification tests, survey reports, field journals, production of keys, essays or other forms of assessment. In course tests are optional and less formal for participants who are not MMU students.

MMU students will be required to complete a portfolio comprising of two parts:

Part 1: A test with a range of specimens. Points awarded for correct identification, and critical comparison between specimen and superficially similar/related species.

Part 2: A critical evaluation of the importance of field guides and ecology in the identification of Lepidoptera and Odonata (Equivalent to 1000 words).

Example Timetable

This timetable is subject to change but should give an outline of what to expect.
If you have booked accommodation with the centre your bedroom will be ready from 3.00 pm onwards on the day of arrival and we ask that you vacate by 9.30 am on the morning of departure.
If numbers are sufficient a station pick up will be arranged at 5.30 pm from Shrewsbury Station.
Please arrive in time for the evening meal is at 6.30 pm on Friday
The course starts after dinner with a classroom session 7.30 pm - 9.00 pm

The course ends at 4.00 pm on the final day.

Time will be made available for eating packed lunches during the day

Example Timetable

Evening - there will be an illustrated talk on the biology and life-cycle of moths, followed by "sugaring" trees to attract various moths.

Morning - Emptying the MV moth-trap that was run overnight, followed by a morning in the lab learning to identify the families and species of moths that we caught in the trap.

Afternoon - a field trip to look for butterflies and day-flying moths.

Evening - an illustrated talk on the biology and life-cycle of butterflies, followed by more moth-trapping.

Morning - emptying the moth trap again, followed by another session in the lab working through our finds.

Afternoon - a walk in the vicinity of the Centre and surrounding fields to look for more butterflies (including browns and skippers) and day-flying moths.

What's Included

  • Expert Tuition
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Hot and Cold Drinks
  • In Course Transport
  • Picnic Lunch
  • Classroom learning covering the theory of the subject
  • Field excursions to apply new knowledge
  • Expert tuition for which we are renowned
  • Clear objectives and progression
  • All meals provided

Before You Attend

There will be a member of staff with first aid training and access to a first aid kit on site. If you have special medical or access requirements, please let us know as soon as possible so we can make any necessary adjustments.

What to Bring

  • If you have any personal moth and butterfly books, a x10 hand lens, or moth-collecting pots, then do bring them along - although all of these will be available at the Centre for the beginner.
  • Close-focusing binoculars, if you have them, are always useful for getting a good view of our more retiring butterflies.
  • An SLR camera with suitable attachments for close-up work, if you are interested in the photography of moths and butterflies.
  • Any photographs you have taken of moths and butterflies that you would like identified, or simply to share with other course members.
  • Pens, pencils and a notebook.
  • Warm clothing and a torch for the moth-trapping, plus a lunchbox, comfortable shoes and waterproof clothing (just in case!) for the excursions.
  • The field excursions, whilst not strenuous, may involve circular walks of between two and three miles in order to see all of the target species. Participants will therefore need a reasonable degree of physical fitness.

Recommended Reading

  • Colour Identification Guide to Moths of the British Isles, Bernard Skinner (3rd Edition, 2009, Apollo Books, ISBN 978-8788757-90-3) - an excellent guide to the identification of the larger moths, but rather expensive. (Copies will be on hand at the Centre during the weekend.)
  • Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland, Paul Waring and Martin Townsend (either the 2009 edition - British Wildlife Publications, ISBN 978-0953139-98-9 or the latest 2017 edition – Bloomsbury Publishing ISBN 978-1472930-31-6).
  • Pocket Guide to the Butterflies of Britain and Ireland, Richard Lewington (2nd Edition, 2015, Bloomsbury Publishing ISBN 978-1910389-04-1)
  • Barnard, P.C. (2011) The Royal Entomological Society Book of British Insects. Wiley-Blackwell
  • Chinery, M. (2005) Collins Complete British Insects. Harper Collins
  • Sterling, P., Parson, M. and Lewington, R. (2012) Micro Moths of Great Britain and Ireland. British Wildlife Publishing

Opportunities to attend this course

This course is not currently available to book. Dates will follow soon.

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