Whilst I love to see butterflies, I am far from an expert and so regularly find myself leafing through books and websites to learn more about a species I have seen recently.
During my research I have come across a number of useful online resources for identifying British butterflies and their caterpillars and thought that it might be useful for other readers to gather the best resources into one place.
Possibly the best place to start your identification journey is with a visit to Butterfly Conservation’s UK Butterflies site which has neatly categorized all of the UK butterfly species, with clear photos of each making identification reasonably easy for most species.
As well as the photos, this site also groups butterflies by type, helping to narrow down your search and also has a handy “Flying This Week” chart on the left-hand side of the page which is a great place to start your hunt.
Butterfly Conservation’s main website also has some very useful resources including a complete A to Z listing of UK butterflies and a special “butterfly identifier” where you can select options from a form which will then offer up possible identifications.
Also worth mentioning is UK Leps which has lots of nice photos and information but unfortunately there is no overview feature. Because of this, UK Leps is probably not so useful for identification when compared to the two Butterfly Conservation websites but once you have worked out what your butterfly is, the site provides plenty more useful information on the species.
Whilst the flying adult butterflies are often the most visible form, it is of course not unusual to find caterpillars and these can potentially be even more problematic to identify.
What’s That Caterpillar is a great resource for identification of British caterpillars. To make your identification a little easier, try to identify the actual plant that you find the caterpillar on and then use one of the various lists of larval food plants to narrow down the options.
Lastly, if you have some top identification websites that you use for lepidoptera, please leave me a comment so we can all benefit from your knowledge 🙂