I’ve been invited by Moths Count to give a presentation at the English moth recorders conference (Birmingham, 31 January 2009) on how moth recorders are using the web. The presentation itself (with audio now available again) can be seen below, and below that are links to the sites mentioned in the presentation. This is by no means a complete set of useful moth websites, but it does pick out some that I think are really good examples, and especially useful to moth recorders (and if you want more here’s my full list of Lepidoptera-related links.)
Information and photos
Perhaps the most familiar site for information and photos of adult moths is UKmoths. For early stages, UKleps has an astonishing set of photos, covering the full life cycle for many species. British leafminers gives comprehensive information on that group of moths (and see also British insect miners, which covers non-Lepidopterous leaf-mines as well). For those moths that need dissection to be identified see the Lepidoptera dissection group.
Egroups and forums
The best-known and longest established egroups are on Yahoo: UKmoths, UKmicromoths, the migrant recorders network and UKleps. There are an increasing number of web-based wildlife discussion forums as well, many of which include moths. One of the most popular of these is Wild About Britain, with over 25,000 registered members. You can also discuss moths on Facebook via Moths aren’t scary they rock!!
Making identification easier
Ideas for improving identification resources on the web include making it easy to compare similar species; making it possible to annotate images online; and encouraging better labelling of photos and of the ‘determinations’ (identifications) associated with them (e.g. documenting who has identified them and when).
The Suffolk Moth Group has an excellent feature on its species pages, which allows you to compare similar species – you can compare photos, flight periods, habitats etc. (example species account). Kuvia ja havaintoja perhosista (moths in Finland) covers some moth species in detail (including carpets and pugs), and has a great feature where you can click on the moth photos and each opens up in its own window, making it easy to arrange and compare them side-by-side.
One of my current jobs is with the iSpot website, part of the OPAL project at the Open University. iSpot aims to connect beginner naturalists with a supportive community of experts and fellow enthusiasts. If you’re knowledgeable about moths or wildlife, can you spare some time to help others learn about what they’ve seen? And if you’re involved with a recording scheme or society then get in touch to find out how you can be ‘badged’ on iSpot, with links through to your own website.
For maps and grid references (including 1940s maps and aerial photos) try the superb Where’s the Path (but you may need to catch it early in the morning as Ordnance Survey restrict the number of map views per day). The BSBI‘s Herbaria at Home project has a tool for checking which vice-county a grid reference of place name falls in.
For researching associations between plants and moths (and other insects) the Biological Records Centre has put its Database of Insects and their Foodplants online. And try the Suffolk Moth Group again for the Field Tips – month-by-month info on what moths (especially caterpillars) can be found where.
Several county websites have set up a “what’s flying tonight” feature, using the county records to show which species are most likely to be seen (as adults) on any date. See versions for Norfolk, Suffolk and Somerset (I find they are useful even if you live a long way from these counties).
One of the most innovative moth websites is Norfolk Moths. Species info, distribution maps, online recording and many other features, including Mobile Moths, which reformats all this mass of data so that it can be accessed via mobile devices such as iPhones and Blackberries. You can also follow Norfolk Moths on Twitter.
Don’t forget to turn the computer off and do some mothing sometimes as well!