Sign up for our Free email Newsletter
and get all the latest wildlife news!

Studying butterflies


Butterfly nets

As the weather (eventually) warms up in spring, and the butterflies start to appear, how do we get youngsters more interested in the wildlife around us? I was involved in a discussion recently with some of the brass from the National Trust, who had come to the realisation that, passionate as they were about the natural world, the National Trust as a body was discouraging many people from doing the things that they had done when young which fired that passion in the first place. So now there is generally a review of some of those policies going on.

The chase is more fun than the catch
To those of you who say that we shouldn't need to catch wildlife to take an interest, I would argue that to really fire an interest it needs to be a more hands on study. Taking a youngster to a butterfly farm will almost certainly not fire an interest, but if you provide them with a butterfly net, allow them to catch a few common butterflies, and have a quick close up look before releasing them back into the wild, it might just create that naturalist of the future.

Is it OK to use butterfly nets?
Butterfly Conservation believes it is acceptable to use nets to confirm identification but nets must be used with care as they can damage butterflies. It's best to get an experienced person to show you how to use your net skilfully if you intend to use one. Scroll down or click here to see which butterflies it is illegal to catch.

The Best Butterfly Books

Butterfly & moth detective handbook

In today's wired world this book is just about as interactive as a book can be. Aimed at the under 10 age group, this book has plenty of ideas to get your children interested in butterflies and moths.

Read full review »


This isn't just a guide to British butterflies, it is a lot more. Matthew Oates is the National Trust's, and one of Britain's, leading experts. He fell in love with butterflies, and particularly the purple emperor, at an early age, and has been following them all around Britain ever since.
Highly recommended. 

Read full review »

britain's butterflies

The latest in a flurry of new butterfly books, this 2nd edition rates very well. Photos of all 59 species that are known to currently breed in Britain & Ireland, as well as 4 that used to, 9 migrants and 1 other species. 

Read full review »

Butterflies of Britain and Europe: A Photographic Guide

Good photos and maps make this book easy to use, you will struggle with caterpillar ID though.



Read full review »


The butterflies and moths listed below are specially protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 and it is illegal to catch, handle or harm them without a license.


  • Heath Fritillary (Melitaea athalia)
  • High Brown Fritillary (Argynnis adippe)
  • Large Blue (Glaucopsyche arion)
  • Large Copper (Lycaena dispar)
  • Marsh Fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia)
  • Swallowtail (Papilio machaon)



  • Barberry Carpet (Pareulype berberata)
  • Black-veined Moth (Siona lineata)
  • Essex Emerald (Thetidia smaragdaria)
  • Fiery Clearwing (Bembecia chrysidiformis)
  • Fisher's Estuarine Moth (Gortyna borelii)
  • New Forest Burnet (Zygaena viciae)
  • Reddish Buff (Acosmetia caliginosa)
  • Sussex Emerald (Thalera fimbrialis)


« Back to Book shop