How to Use this Guide
Browse through the picture galleries to find a match for your moth.To check details, click on a picture to see an enlarged version.
The images in this online Guide are of pinned moths with their forewings and hindwings spread in the standard position for museum specimens. When alive, most moth species rest with their hindwings concealed under the forewings, so initially some difficulty may be encountered in reconciling the appearance of the live specimen with these photos. However, if the moth can be captured in a transparent container and the forewing lined up so that it corresponds with the orientation in the photograph, comparison should be made relatively easy.
For the relatively few species where the hindwing shows important identification features, it may be possible to push the forewing gently forward with (e.g.) the point of a pencil to reveal the hindwing pattern. This is best done with a moth that is quiescent; refrigeration of the moth in its container for an hour or even overnight will do it no harm and make it easier to examine in this manner. As a general rule, the larger-bodied a moth is, the less it is likely to fly away when accorded such treatment!
(The gallery has been created from pinned specimens partly because this shows the full upperside colour pattern, and partly because to obtain excellent photographs of all New Zealand’s larger moth species live in the field would be the work of several lifetimes.)
Caution: There are MANY moth species in New Zealand. Some are very similar to one another, so it is necessary to exercise care in using this photographic guide. Look carefully at all the possible matches you can find in the gallery, but allow for variation in colour pattern. Only with experience will you get to know the range of variation exhibited by some of our commoner moths and be able to recognise them in all their various guises.
It is always good to take a photograph as a voucher, if the moth is thought to be something unusual or interesting. In some cases, it may even be advisable to collect a specimen, provided one has permission to collect from the landowner and/or other relevant authority, and collecting is undertaken in a responsible and ethical manner (see, e.g. Guidelines prepared by the Lepidopterists’ Society (USA).
Short instructional videos relating to collecting and preparing moth specimens for study can be found at these sites: