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 Butterfly Recording - making the most of your data

To conserve butterflies effectively we need to have good information on species distributions and trends in abundance. However outside parts of western and northwestern Europe such data is sparse.

Sam Ellis, Chair Butterfly Conservation Europe, has written a comprehensive review on how to make the most of your butterfly recording and monitoring data in Europe: European Butterfly Recording and Monitoring (PDF)

Approximately half of European countries have butterfly recording schemes. EBG has developed links with ten such schemes. Downloadable spreadsheets with country-specific species lists and a named EBG contact to whom you can submit your data are available for: Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. Where these exist, we encourage everyone to use EBG country-specific spreadsheets to submit their European butterfly records.

 Butterfly Identification Guides

The following guides provide help with the identification of European butterfly species and are free to download.
Identification Guide to the Pyrgus Group of Grizzled Skippers
The Pyrgus Group of Grizzled Skippers in Europe consists of sixteen species which are some of the most difficult and confusing to identify. They are problematic because they are all very similar and the key identifying features are often quite obscure. It is often the case that one mark alone is not sufficient, and a combination of marks is necessary for a ‘confident’ identification. This in-depth guide provides all the necessary guidance to find these identifying features on your butterfly including a preliminary identification key and detailed descriptions and comparisons of all sixteen species.
Identification Guide to the European Fritillaries
This comprehensive guide provides an easy to understand, accurate method for identifying European Fritillaries; from deciding to which family your butterfly belongs through to species identification.  The design is a compromise between a yes/no key and a descriptive list of species, using a process of comparison and elimination.  Scientific terms are avoided whenever possible. The guide content concentrates on the characteristics that are diagnostic and limits the information on other features to what might be useful for identification. This guide incorporates the four fritillary guides below which are available for download separately.
Download (note - large file size - 66mb)
Large and Medium Fritillaries
This guide helps to first distinguish the Large and Medium sized fritillaries [Argynnis, Brenthis, Fabriciana, Issoria, Speyeria] from the Small fritillaries [Boloria, Euphydryas, Melitaea] and then provides an identification process down to species level. All eleven species occurring in Europe are described with detailed comparisons of the fritillaries which frequently cause confusion.
Download : high resolution (large file size - 16mb) or low resolution (small file size - 4mb)
Small Fritillaries: 1. Boloria
This guide to Boloria species is one of three covering the Small Fritillaries. Guidance is provided on separating Boloria from the other Small fritillaries [Euphydryas, Melitaea] and the Large and Medium group [Argynnis, Brenthis, Fabriciana, Issoria, Speyeria]. All fifteen Boloria species are covered including difficult identifications such as distinguishing Shepherd's Fritillary [Boloria pales] from Mountain Fritillary [Boloria napaea].
Download : high resolution (large file size - 22mb) or low resolution (small file size - 6mb)
Small Fritillaries: 2. Euphydryas
The six species of Euphydryas are illustrated in this guide which is one of three covering the Small Fritillaries. Guidance is provided on separating Euphydryas from the other Small fritillaries [Boloria, Melitaea] and the Large and Medium group [Argynnis, Brenthis, Fabriciana, Issoria, Speyeria]. There is detailed coverage of the difficult forms and subspecies which can frequently cause confusion in identification.
Download (11mb)
Small Fritillaries: 3. Melitaea
This is the last of the three guides covering the Small Fritillaries. Melitaea now includes the old sub-group of Mellicta which traditionally posed the greatest identification problems for European butterfly recorders. This guide provides many new and traditional observations to help with distinguishing amongst this very variable and challenging group of fritillaries. Many Melitaea can only be positively identified by examining the male genitalia. A guide to this technique will be available in due course.
Download : high resolution (large file size - 18mb) or low resolution (small file size - 5mb)
Whites: Pieris
A complete guide to identifying all the European Pieris with notes on spring and summer broods plus how to differentiate from other similar genera (Aporia, Anthocharis, Euchloe and Pontia). The following species are covered : Large White [Pieris brassicae], Small White [Pieris rapae], Green-veined White [Pieris napi], Southern Small White [Pieris mannii], Mountain Small White [Pieris ergane], Kreuper’s Small White [Pieris kreuperi], Mountain Green-veined White [Pieris bryoniae], Balkan Green-veined White [Pieris balcana]
Download (9mb)
Brimstones: Gonepteryx
There is sometimes confusion between the following three species: Brimstone [Gonepteryx rhamni], Powdered Brimstone [Gonepteryx farinosa] and Cleopatra [Gonepteryx cleopatra]. This short guide highlights the differences between them.  Distribution Maps are included to help with identification.
Download (3mb)

Many thanks to Bill Raymond for designing the ID guides above.
Thanks to Bernard Watts for information and photographs, to Matt Rowlings, Roger Gibbons, Nick Greatorex-Davies, David Moore and Vincent Baudraz for photographs and to Richard Lewington for the use of his illustrations. Thanks also to LepiDiv for permitting the use of their distribution maps.

Copyright Butterfly Conservation: These guides are made available for private use only. Any form of commercial usage is forbidden.

 Butterfly Identification Service

We offer a Butterfly Identification Service whereby you can send us your photographs of butterflies for identification.

 List of European Butterfly Species


Download : EuropeanButterflies.xls (89kb)

The list of 454 species on the first spreadsheet comprises species found in Europe up to the eastern boundary of the European Union. It includes Cyprus, the Canary Islands, Madeira, and the Azores. A further 42 species which only occur east of the European Union (in Russia, etc) are listed separately on the second spreadsheet.

The list follows the updated checklist of European Butterflies which was published on 31 December 2018 in the journal ZooKeys and can be accessed as follows:

The updated checklist was compiled by an international committee of taxonomic experts which comprised Martin Wiemers (corresponding author), Emilio Balletto, Vlad Dinca, Zdenek Fric, Gerardo Lamas, Vladimir Lukhtanov, Miguel Munguira, Chris van Swaay, Roger Vila, Albert Vliegenthart, Niklas Wahlberg, and Rudi Verovnik.

It is the same piece of work as the checklist published in the EIG Anniversary Magazine in May 2017 (which was an advanced draft of the committee’s conclusions) but with a few updates and corrections, the main ones being as follows.  

Main changes

Polyommatus timfristos is added as a new species.  This is an Anomalous Blue from the Timfristos and Parnassos mountains in central Greece.

Polyommatus eleniae (Phalakron Anomalous Blue) is now considered conspecific with Polyommatus orphicus (Kolev’s Anomalous Blue). 

The split of Euphydryas beckeri (Iberian Marsh Fritillary) from Euphydryas aurinia (Marsh Fritillary) is dropped.

Hypolimnas missipus (Danaid Eggfly) is added to the list.  This tropical species has been recorded and is possibly breeding in the Canary Islands, and has been recorded in Madeira.

Pieris wollastoni (Madeiran Large White) is now classified as extinct.

The scientific name of the recently split Southern Heath Fritillary is corrected from Melitaea nevadensis to Melitaea celadussa.

Argynnis aglaja (Dark Green Fritillary) is now Speyeria aglaja.

Argynnis niobe (Niobe Fritillary), Argynnis elisa (Corsican Fritillary) and Argynnis adippe (High Brown Fritillary) become Fabriciana niobe, Fabriciana elisa and Fabriciana adippe.

Nevada Grayling becomes Pseudochazara williamsi

Butterflies of the Iberian Peninsula by Paul R. G. Browning

Paul Browning's book 'Butterflies of the Iberian Peninsula' was first published in 2011. It filled a particular gap in the market and proved to be a very useful guide. The limited print run sold out quickly and now the book is out of print.

The revised edition available here contains a lot of information which was not included in the original version. The text is comprehensive, accurate and contains a wealth of information on the butterflies of Spain and Portugal. 

Paul would like EBG members to have access to this information and has very kindly let us provide this revised version of the 'Butterflies of the Iberian Peninsula'  as a free resource on the European Butterflies Group website. 

Please note the PDF file size of the book is 107mb and will take a while to download on slow broadband. Download : Butterflies of the Iberian Peninsula by Paul R. G. Browning

A photographic guide. Butterflies of Central Europe and Britain by Peter Gergely

This useful field guide, produced by de Vlinderstichting (Dutch Butterfly Conservation) is available to download as a free resource in pdf, see here. The guide includes 269 species occurring in Britain, Western and Central Europe.

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