Code Of Practice

'Code Of Practice' prepared with consultation from several organisations (including Butterfly Conservation) and individuals. The code includes sections on visiting butterfly sites, collecting, use of nets  and protected species. Please help safeguard our butterfly populations and habitats by following the code.


The purpose of this code of practice is to support Butterfly Conservation's aim of "Saving butterflies, moths and their habitats".

For various reasons, such as the introduction of digital photography and the availability of information on the Internet, an interest in butterflies and moths has been steadily increasing over the last several years. While this interest is welcomed, it can also place a burden, in particular, on sensitive colonies and fragile sites.

This code of practice is aimed at alleviating this burden and provides concrete suggestions for being considerate with respect to wildlife in general, and Lepidoptera in particular, and their habitats. The code has been written to be brief, realistic and practical.


This code includes specific terms whose meaning is as follows:

  • A sensitive colony is a population of a given species that is prone to disturbance. An example might be a small colony of a rare species confined to a small site.
  • A fragile site is a location that is susceptible to damage. An example might be a location that is easily damaged by visitors and their pets.
  • Vague site details refer to a site that is not explicitly mentioned by name or location. For example, "a large deciduous forest in north Hampshire".

Visiting Sites

Many of the more popular sites are suffering from intense visitor pressure, which can cause disturbance to wildlife, damage fragile sites, and diminish the tranquillity of the countryside. This code recommends the following:

  • Try to avoid visiting popular sites at peak times in order to alleviate the pressure on such sites. Visit mid-week if you can or visit less well-known sites.
  • Complement visits to the most popular sites with visits to lesser-known sites.
  • Try not to disturb (and certainly not harm) any butterflies or moths.
  • Do not remove any butterflies, moths (including immature stages) or plants from a site (see Rearing in Captivity, below).
  • Avoid damage to habitat, especially trampling of foodplants and nectar sources. Keep to footpaths wherever possible.
  • Close gates behind you, do not leave litter and guard against fire.
  • Keep dogs under strict control at all times and try to avoid taking them to fragile sites or sites containing sensitive colonies. This is for the benefit of the wildlife and other visitors.

Publicising Sites

Webmasters, newsletter editors and book authors are all in a position to publicise sites. This code recommends the following:

  • Do not publicise details of privately-owned sites unless the owner has given permission and the owner welcomes visitors.
  • Provide limited information with respect to fragile sites and sensitive colonies.

Publicising Sightings

With the advent of the Internet, webmasters are in a position to publicise sightings almost as soon as they occur. However, such information can inadvertently result in excessive visitor numbers and, unfortunately, collectors. This code recommends the following:

  • Do not publicise sightings of the adult stage of sensitive colonies until after the peak of the flight period. Alternatively, provide vague site details.
  • Do not publicise sightings of immature stages of sensitive colonies. Alternatively, provide vague site details.


This code does not endorse any form of collecting.

Use of a Net

The use of nets is strongly discouraged, since it is invasive, is detrimental to butterfly behaviour and can be harmful to habitat.

  • Netting of butterflies and moths should only be carried out in conjunction with valid research and sponsored by a recognised entomological authority (for example, when monitoring populations using a mark-and-recapture method).
  • Follow any local bye-laws, some of which may prohibit use of nets.

Moth Trapping

Moth trapping can contribute greatly to our understanding of species distribution and stability. This code recommends the following:

  • Release moths after dark, as birds may take advantage of an easy meal.
  • Do not release moths in the same location each time.
  • Ensure that the trap is covered during the day, for example by a sheet, and kept out of direct sunlight and away from areas that get hot.

Rearing in Captivity

Stock reared in captivity can be obtained from a number of organisations and individuals. This code recommends the following:

  • Do not take stock from the wild, except common species to be reared for educational purposes or for bona fide research sponsored by a recognised entomological society. Release the resulting adults at their place of origin.
  • When purchasing stock, enquire about its source and do not purchase stock that has been taken from the wild, or its offspring.
  • Never release captive-bred stock of unknown origin (such as stock that has been purchased) into the wild. This can disrupt conservation efforts and introduce disease.

The Law

Certain species and sites are protected by law. A list of butterfly species protected, and the level of protection afforded, is given at 

About This Code

This code of practice has been developed with consultation from several organisations and individuals, most notably: Butterfly Conservation, Adrian Hoskins, Alan Thornbury, Colin Baker, Guy Padfield, Peter Bruce-Jones, Peter Eeles, Robin Turner, Mike Young.