Monday, 23 December 2013

New Checklist

I've just had a look through the new checklist of Lepidoptera (groan!!!) and in many ways it is as strange and unsettling as I expected. The families have been reordered to some extent (for example, the Hawk-moths now come before the geometrids), which will take some getting used to, though I suppose that once field guides start using this ordering, the transition will be easier. My main concern is with the new numbering system, which consists of a two digit number, followed by a decimal point and three (rarely four) further digits. For instance Large Yellow Underwing will be 73.342. The first two digits represent the family, whereas the digits after the  point represent the genus and species. I have no problem with in principle, but the result is a rather cumbersome number, which if like me, one uses the number when entering records on MapMate, or putting them in order, when compiling lists after trapping sessions, these new numbers will make that task that much more of a chore and possibly lead to a greater number of mistakes.

Of course, this is just the opinion of conservative old duffer and I will have to knuckle down to it like everyone else. Many will no doubt welcome this new checklist as a breath of fresh air and long overdue, the latter being probably true. For my part, I just wish they had stuck with a numbering system that didn't include those pesky decimal points.

On a positive note, at least there is an alphabetical list of vernacular names (another with scientific names too) with the new numbers alongside them, making it quick to look up the new numbers.


  1. You just beat me to that post Mark!

    Unsettling is certainly an apt word for the new list. As I've been following the old order for 20-odd years, it's going to take some getting used to. A couple of the most mind-bending changes are:

    Nolidae (now placed after Noctuidae) includes not only Short-cloaked, Least Black Arches etc, but also Scarce and Green Silver-lines and Oak Nycteoline.

    And most surprising to me...Erebidae (a family I'd never heard of until now) which is placed before the Noctuidae and includes the former arctiids (footmen and tigers), lymantriids (Yellow-tail, Pale Tussock etc) and also many former noctuids (e.g. Herald, Straw Dot, snouts and fan-foots, Red Underwing and Blackneck).

    It's going to take me a while to think of Herald, Snout and Green Silver-lines as anything other than noctuids!

    The checklist runs to 205 A4-sized pages. A nice feature is that for each species the individual countries where it has been recorded are listed, so it's easy to check if a species is on the Welsh list (in theory anyway - I did check Leek Moth, which arrived in Glamorgan in 2007, and it is not listed for Wales).

    Personally, I didn't use the old B&F numbers and so I'm not too concerned about the numbering, but I can understand your issues with this Mark as a user of the B&F numbers.


  2. I've not really gone into the ordering of families and genus yet, but as with my beloved numbers, if the system you are used to is being radically altered, then it is a small, personal world turned upside down.
    I've always used the B&F numbers to order my moth records and compile lists, after site trapping and events, and since using MapMate, I have found them the quickest and easiest way of entering my moth records. It is me being selfish I suppose, but as I suffer from a mild numerical dyslexia (dyscalculia, I think it's called), I have only occasional trouble with the B&F numbers, but each extra digit increases my difficulty and I am far more likely to jumble 73.342 than 2107. Meanwhile that decimal point means that I will have to keep moving my typing hand away from the numerical keys to the bottom of the keyboard, which is just a nuisance. Surely they could have come up with a simpler numbering system, with less digits, that didn't involve punctuation :¬(

  3. The problem with the old numbering system was that it was hopelessly out of date from a taxonomic point of view. The new system will enable will at least be more easily updateable without reorting to additional letters in the numbering system! The authors have also included species that are found in Europe that have not yet made it into the UK in the numbering system so these already have number waiting for them when they arrive. I do find it milfly amusing that so many people have become so attached to a numbering system invented 25 years ago. Had the numbering system that Ford invented (in the 1950s?) been adopted things would have been very different again!
    To my mind, the moths themselves have not changed, just their labels. If you don't have a collection that needs to be re-ordered then I don't see the problem. B&F numbers are not going to be removed from MapMate in the near future, it is just that when you see a species list in a journal (or on a website) it might take a little longer to find what you were looking for!