Colour identification guide to moths of the British isles - by B. Skinner
Article first published online: 17 NOV 2009
© 2009 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2009 The Royal Entomological Society
Volume 35, Issue 1, page 197, January 2010
How to Cite
Agassiz, D. (2010), Colour identification guide to moths of the British isles - by B. Skinner. Systematic Entomology, 35: 197. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3113.2009.00502.x
- Issue published online: 4 JAN 2010
- Article first published online: 17 NOV 2009
- First published online 17 Novemner 2009
Colour identification guide to moths of the British isles . 3rd revised and updated edition . . 2009 . Apollo Books, Stenstrup , Denmark . £48/€69
In the British Isles, the first edition of this book, published in 1984, replaced South's The Moths of the British Isles as the standard identification guide for lepidopterists. Since then several species have newly occurred in the British Isles, only some of which were included in the second edition (1998). There has also been an increase in recorders and people operating light traps, many of whom are reluctant to take specimens.
The publication of Waring & Townsend's (2009)Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain & Ireland (originally published in 2003, but now in a revised updated edition) has been welcomed by many such recorders, especially as this work shows species in their natural resting positions. However, the number of erroneous records arising from the use of such a work is much greater. In contrast, the value of Skinner's work is the clear illustration of all aspects that can lead to a correct identification; this is well executed and very welcome.
In most cases the species descriptions remain as in the first edition, but text has been modified if there has been a marked change in the distribution or other knowledge of the species. A number has been added for each species, taken from Bradley & Fletcher's Log Book (1979). The excellent text figures prepared by David Wilson are much more clearly printed in the new edition.
Plates 1–42 are printed from the same transparencies as the original edition, but there has been a change of publisher to one who is himself a lepidopterist. Together with advances in printing techniques this has resulted in much improved plates, with much better colour balance. For example, the illustrations of Lasiocampidae on Plate 2 of my first edition were excessively red, whereas in the new plate they are very true, likewise that of Trisateles emortualis on Plate 42 of my first edition was orange-brown rather than the greenish tone correctly printed in the third edition.
Plates 43 and 44 were added in the second edition, depicting species newly recorded from Britain and two more are added now to show further species recorded in the last decade. As in previous editions, the plates show the moths at life size, which is a considerable help in identification; rather than computer generated pictures that are all the same size. In addition there are four new plates (A–D), which show enlarged right wings of pairs or groups of easily confused species. These should further aid correct identification.
A self-adhesive correction slip was included with the book giving a replacement photograph for one species that had been identified incorrectly, together with that of another pair that had been transposed, and some minor corrections to the legends. There is also a replacement caption for Fig. 22 on Plate 15, which is rather puzzling as the text referring to it remains unchanged.
Limitation of space prevented the authors from including genitalia illustrations, but reference is given to other standard works. It is stated that Mesapamea secalis and M. didyma can only reliably be separated by the genitalia, but no specific reference is given, which would have been helpful in a case like this.
As earlier editions are out of print, the publication of this third edition is very welcome. Although it could not really be described as a handbook, it is sufficiently portable to be taken into the field and is highly recommended to ensure that identification is correctly achieved.
David Agassiz 1
- 1979) A Recorder's Log Book or Label List of British Butterflies and Moths. Curwen Press, London, U.K. & (
- 1984) Colour Identification Guide to the Moths of the British Isles. Viking, New York, New York. (
- 1907) The moths of the British Isles. 2 Vols. Warne, London, U.K. (
- 2009) Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland. British Wildlife Publishing, Gillingham, U.K. , , & (