on 17 August 2003
I first became interested in moths in the mid-seventies, when identification was via the 2-volume Richard South publication in Warne's Wayside & Woodland series - first published in 1907. When I resumed my interest quite recently, Skinner's guide, published in 1984 with its much friendlier layout, had superseded South's. Both of these books required the moths to be identified from photographs of set specimens, and this made many of the less distinctive species difficult to identify, without similarly killing and setting the specimen and even then, the reproduction of the plates or the condition of the specimen used, made this sometimes doubtful. This new book contains precisely painted illustrations of all the "macro" moths recorded in Britain and Ireland, in their natural resting postures, enabling identification without killing or other manipulation of the moth. It is easy to peruse the plates and eliminate those that are simply the wrong shape or size and also to see readily, the shape and distribution of the key patterns of the wings. Occasionally other key points are illustrated, where these help , such as the hindwing of the Alchymist. Where variation exists within a species, this is illustrated too. The plates and the text are easily cross-referenced, with the exception within the text of the reference to similar species, where plate numbers would have helped.
For each species there are notes on Field Characters, Similar Species (features sadly missing from the Skinner guide), Habitat, and Status & Distribution (amongst others). After 2 days use, I am confidently identifying the smaller and less distinctive noctuids, with great confidence, where previously the guide(s) available were inadequate for this. I've even put names to some photographs that had been sitting on my computer, unidentified for some time.
Technical terms are virtually absent - for example, the parts of the wing are referred to as "leading edge", "tip", "outer edge" etc, and these are explained and illustrated in the introduction, which gives brief explanatory notes on moth classification and identification.
This is a really well designed and presented book, written and illustrated by experts. The popularity of moths will take off!
on 2 September 2004
When I started mothing I learnt identification from the Skinner volume. As has been said in other reviews Skinner gives no help in the text to sort the moths out. What is more, although the moths are photographed the reproduction is not good so details are lost along with your temper.
The book by Waring et al sorts a lot of this out as the paintings done by Richard Lewington are superb. The moths sit as you see them and shape is a large factor in identification. The text helps a great deal too telling you the important points to look for in identification. It also supplies details on range, emergence time and how common they are all of which help a lot during use.
The layout of the moths through the book follows that given in the British checklist. This is identical to that in other books so moving from one volume to another is easy if confirmation is required. It is also a handbook so it will fit in your pocket.
There are one or two problems. The first is the layout of the book. The pictures are not scattered through the book along with text relevant to each species, they are provided in four groups. Immediately you have trouble finding the pictures. I have ended up marking the site of the pictures with tabs of insulating tape just so that I can locate them. Then starting from a picture of moth, is the text for that species positioned in front or later in the book? Could be either. This may sound silly but time is precious when the moth may disappear any scond! If you are going to group the pictures, I think putting them all in a single group, at the back of the book makes far more sense.
Second for many species the text supplies "similar species". This is a good idea but some of the "similar species" do not look similar at all! In other cases they state "no similar species" and this simply is not true. Some identification problems could have been taken further as there are some groups of moths like: Uncertain, Rustic, Powdered Rustic, Vines rustic etc which are a nightmare to tell apart. They have tried reasonably well but perhaps a small section of text and a table describing the key points may be the way forward.
A third point is the inclusion of pictures of caterpillars. A good idea but you have to put ALL the caterpillars in for it to make sense. Indeed there is another book that does this so why bother wasting space in this way?
Despite all this twining on, I think it is the best Macro moth out there by far so I thoroughly recommend it.
on 12 August 2004
This book was a complete treasure to find. Having only started my interest in Moths just over a year ago I had only been able to find books with insufficient information or one's that were too technical. The Moths of the British Isles by Bernard Skinner is an excellent book but too technical for a beginner and how often do you see moths with their wings spread out as in the images he gives for identification. With the Field Guide to Moths of Great Britain and Ireland the authors have been able to demonstrate what the moths would look like in different natural positions and described what I should be looking for in straight forward terms. It is an excellent reference book for beginners and the more experienced and is well worth reading. Well done I hope they go on to write other wildlife books in this format as I shall be in the queue to buy them.
on 7 July 2004
I became interested in moths a few years ago, casually observing them at the kitchen window on summer nights.
As my interest developed, I went to a moth walk, and then decided to buy a book.
Moth identification is daunting for beginners, with so many species, some almost identical in appearance. This book is the most straightforward guide available.
It avoids the use of over-technical language and is immediately usable and readable.
Containing over 800 species, it is also comprehensive. Another good point is that it fully includes Ireland, so can be used by Irish naturalist like me, too.
Although it is quite expensive, it is worth it if you are keen on moths.
And best of all, the illustrations are superb - just look at the hawkmoth plates!
on 13 September 2006
Descriptions of all c900 species of "macro" moth of Britain and Ireland with 880 species depicted in 1660 illustrations. This guide now replaces South (1961) and Skinner (1984, 1998) as the standard field guide. The plates are quite simply stunning - not just for their wealth of observed detail, but also because of their intrinsic beauty. As for the text, it is concise and clear. This is the first time comparative information has been provided in a moth guide in the form of a "similar species" section - and very helpful it is too. I have only used this guide briefly on a recent trip to the UK, but I was very impressed and look forward to using it further on future visits.
If I had to nominate my favourite guide to butterflies and moths of any region, this would be it. It deserves to be on the shelves of any naturalist.
on 2 May 2011
As someone who is primarily a birdwatcher, I got into butterflies several years ago after being frustrated at not being able to identify some blues I'd seen at Maiden Castle. This led me to join Butterly Conservation which ultimately got me curious about moths after going to a number of presentations.
This guide only covers the larger, "macro" moths but the identification of these insects must be one of the hardest tasks in natural history. Everyone I asked about the best guide book to buy regarding moths suggested this book. In fact, I don't recall any other guide being recommended. I've had the guide a few years now and must admit that I don't use it quite as frequently as the butterfly guide in the same series which I would similarly recommend. As a heavy, paperback, I don't feel that it is a practical kind of book to take out with me when birdwatching but it always gets used whenever I see a moth in the garden or house that looks unusual. Identiciation can take about 10-15 minutes for someone inexperienced like me. Even then, I am often not too sure although the colourful species are obvious much easier than the little brown numbers!
The book has quite good illustrations as you would expect from Richard Lewington with the guide being split up into the various family of moths. I don't think that all the drawings are as good as in his butterfly guide though. Some of the illiustrations of the Notodontidae moths, for example, are very unclear. By and large, the illustrations are good albeit it lacks annotations to enable you to differ particular species which may be similar. There is information about catipillars, habitat, flight seasons, lavae food and distribution to assist with identification. The written information is often of more benefit than the illustrations. I found the notes to be very good.
As a beginner, I find this book comprehensive but moth identification is very difficult and something of a specialist subject. This is definately a fantastic guide and , I would imagine, pretty thorough with regard to the information contained. However, do not expect it to allow you to quickly identify the first moth that flies into your house. The fact remains that this is a very difficult topic and no matter how good this book is, I am beginning to realise that moth identification is a specialist subject. Recommended as the best guide I am aware of being available.
on 8 September 2013
I am just a beginner at learing about our moths and butterflies. The book is stuffed full of information, quite a few photos (of larvae) and the beatiful illustrations of Richard Lewington.
Not really a "Field" guide, as the book is very heavy. I also purchased the "Concise" guide, and carry it with me in a shoulder-bag, (along with a few other guides and collection jars (for viewing only - I view and release).
A wonderful book for anyone interested in our beautiful moths - and especially helpful to beginners, like myself.
on 27 July 2009
Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland
I am totally new to looking at moths - apart from an Observer book I had as a kid, half a century ago. I own an interesting bit of land in Dorset (heathland, woodland and acid grassland) and having treated myself to a digital camera last year have now started looking at some of our smaller native creatures. A keen moth specialist ran a moth trap here in mid-July and, on a rather poor night, attracted 114 different species including 2 Nationally Scarce B. He identified them all for a small group of interested folk and since then I have sat down with this fantastic book on Macro Moths and read up on each of those we found noting in particular what the food plants are. I had no idea that the larvae of some species feed on decaying leaves.
The book is laid out with the main identification pictures collected together in the centre pages. They are beautifully illustrated and are shown in their normal (living) resting positions - not the flattened out pinned versions favoured by entomologists of years past that you find in museum collections. Each picture is cross referenced to the text(and vice versa) and common and specific names are given throughout. I know you shouldn't "read the pictures" first but it is just so tempting to do so when they are so incredibly good.
The text is also excellent. The introduction on how to use the Guide is followed by more information on life cycle, determination of the sex of a moth, how to distinguish moths from other superficially similar insects, distribution, national status and conservation and how to find moths.
The bulk of the text then follows with excellent overviews of each family followed by succinct but very readable (and memorable too)descriptions of Field Characters, Similar Species, Flight Season, Life Cycle, Larval Food Plants, Habitat, Status and Distribution.
One of the summary reviews on the back cover refers to it as "The new benchmark". It is undoubtedly the best identification book I have ever owned and is going to provide me with hours of interesting reading. Perhaps more important to the authors and illustrator is that it has inspired a new interest for this pensioner.
on 28 November 2013
I started moth trapping a couple of months ago and was suggested to me to buy this guide, haven't been disappointed, a fantastic companion to get started, easy lay out, extra information about flight periods, regions found, similar species etc, accurate and clear drawings, and accounts for variations in species. A must have for learning macromoths.
on 26 October 2013
I have only just stared mothing and this book was recommended by our county moth recorder. Middle section is pictures and rest of book is descriptions. Individual descriptions tell you which species you could confuse with the moth concerned and range and flight times help narrow down identification. I've only had my copy a few months and its already well used - really well worth the money if you are serious about learning to identify moths.