Insects of Britain and Ireland: the genera of Lepidoptera-Noctuidae

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L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


This data set is generated from a DELTA database (Dallwitz 1980; Dallwitz, Paine, and Zurcher 1993). The original intention of the ‘British Insects’ suite of packages, of which it forms part, was primarily to present scans of the fine hand-coloured engravings of insects in John Curtis’s British Entomology: illustrations and descriptions of the genera of insects found in Great Britain and Ireland (1824–1840). The first 12 volumes of the first edition (up to 1835) were directly available to us, and pages issued from 1836–1840 have been accessed from other sources (see Notes on John Curtis’s British Entomology).

In addition to presenting Curtis’s and other early illustrations, all the ‘British Entomology’ subsets incorporate descriptive data organized under the DELTA system, and purport to offer at least partial identification and information retrieval facilities via the interactive program Intkey. However, the Lepidoptera component goes further than the rest. The present package represents an extension to generic level of the Families of Lepidoptera subset (q.v.), with which a more detailed Introduction is provided. It is at a relatively early stage of development, and offers abundant scope for additional characters, refinement of the present character state definitions, and more extensive checking of generic descriptions against specimens. Nevertheless, the testing conducted to date suggests that it affords a reasonable prospect of identifying British noctuid moths to generic level, via routine morphological characters, wing patterning, geographical occurrence, etc.; and by including comprehensive scans from Newman’s excellent woodcuts (1869; see Notes on Edward Newman’s British Moths and British Butterflies), supplemented by Kirby’s (1907) chromolithographs and some original photographs, its scope has been extended to illustrate virtually all the British species, even including most of the ‘adventives’ presented in the Bradley et al. (1972) and Bradley (2000) updates of Kloet and Hincks’s Check List. For educational purposes and as an identificatory aid for genera and species, scans of Newman’s individual figures have been grouped into ‘plates’ comprising related insects, and where necessary, Kirby’s plates have also been re-organized to conform with more recent views on relationships. We have recently (2007) further extended this data set, and the accompanying ‘Families of Lepidoptera’ and ‘Geometridae’ packages, to indicate conspicuous examples of melanism and ‘industrial melanism’; illustrating these by original colour photographs of specimens collected in ostensibly rural habitats near Stoke-on-Trent and Manchester in the decade 1948–1958 (i.e., before implementation of the ‘Clean Air Act’).

The classification and formal nomenclature have been aligned with the 2000 version of the Check List, with a very few exceptions where older generic interpretations are retained pending preparation of adequate generic descriptions for the constituents. Meanwhile, all the names concerned are recorded as synonyms, and can be located using the button at extreme right of the main Intkey toolbar. English names, the usefulness of which is alluded to in the introduction to the accompanying ‘Families of Lepidoptera’ subset, can also be accessed via the ‘Refer common names to genera’ button.

Organization under the Delta system ensures that this package is readily accessible for corrections and improvements. Informed criticism and constructive input are of course welcome, and will be appropriately acknowledged. Alternatively, the complete Delta data set can be donated if required for teaching purposes, or to any professional or amateur entomologist or organization interested in developing it further.

Edited 7 June 2016