top of page

Fineshade as SSSI? ... invertebrates

Part 2, Chapter 17: Invertebrates, can be downloaded here:


This page draws upon this document from the Joint Nature Conservation Committeee:


Guidelines for the Selection of Biological SSSIs

Part 2: Detailed Guidelines for Habitats and Species Groups

Chapter 17 Invertebrates


This document, which has 21 pages, is subject to revision with the revised guidelines now said to be "possibly completed by late summer 2016." (Previously due to be published in Winter 2015 - Spring 2016. (Information received 31 March 2016).

Nationally scarce White-letter Hairstreaks in Fineshade
Photo taken by DougGoddard, 2015. 

The 1989 guidelines


Written 27 years ago, these guidelines point out that there were, at that time, approximately 22,500 known species of insects in Britain, plus other groups such as spiders, molluscs, woodlice, millipedes, centipedes and crustaceans comprising another estimated 7,500 British species. Many of these species had been poorly recorded and studied so that assessing SSSI worthiness on account of the presence of invertebrates was particularly difficult. It was the rarer, more specialised invertebrate species that needed particular attention, especially where their habitat requirements were not represented within the existing SSSI series.


However, in the guidelines document, butterflies and dragonflies were thought to be sufficiently well known to merit separate treatment, while the remaining groups were treated at a more general level. In the intervening years other groups such as moths, ground beetles and spiders have been widely studied so it is likely that the revision taking place currently will be very different. Also there have been major changes in butterfly populations and distribution since 1989.

753 species of moths have been recorded in Fineshade,

31 are nationally scarce or notable

Fineshade Wood Concolorous

Rare Concolorous moth trapped in
Fineshade in 2017

  Fineshade is one of the seldomly found sites that contains a collection of rare or scarce species of butterflies

Purple Emperor in 2015. Lynda Peirce

White Admiral in 2015. Barrie Galpin

Invertebrate information for Fineshade


Of all the invertebrate groups, the best recorded in Fineshade are probably the moths, largely because of the nightly use of a Rothampstead trap, run by FC staff at Top Lodge for many years.


In 2017, Mark Hammond the county moth recorder compiled the complete list of moths recorded - there were 753 of them of which no less than 31 are nationally scarce or notable.

Other invertebrate information for Fineshade is hard to find, either simply because there has been little actual recording done, or else because, as we have detailed elsewhere, historical FC records may have been lost when the Top Lodge offices were redeveloped. 



An exception to this dearth of records is for Butterflies where both historical and recent records indicate the particular importance of Fineshade Wood.


Section 1.3 of the 1989 guidelines points out the difficulty of applying a scoring technique for potential sites for butterflies. In particular it is said that:


“it is seldom that any one site will contain many rare and/or scarce species”.


Fineshade Wood appears to be one of these seldomly found sites.

Of the 14 species which were nationally scarce in 1989 (occurring in 16-100 10 km squares) two were recorded in Fineshade in 2015. These were


Purple Emperor (2015 for first time)

White-letter Hairstreak (Recorded annually in several parts of Fineshade)


Furthermore of the 15 Butterflies which had experienced substantial local declines eight have been recorded in Fineshade recently. These were:


White Admiral  (2015 and most years in small numbers)

Silver-washed Fritillary (2015 in good numbers)

Brown Argus (2015 Now widespread in Northants)

Chalkhill Blue (One vagrant specimen in 2015)

Small Heath (2015 in good numbers)

Dingy Skipper (Recorded most years in small numbers)

Grizzled Skipper (Recorded most years in small numbers)

Marbled White Recorded in 2013 and 2016)


In addition to those very recently recorded species, there are also historical records of:

Pearl-bordered Fritillary

Chequered Skipper

Duke of Burgundy





Fineshade has also been chosen as the site for the re-introduction of the Chequered Skipper to England, part of the Back from the Brink Project 

A  2016 report of the status of butterflies in Fineshade Wood compiled by County Recorder, Doug Goddard, is available here.


Chalkhill Blue in 2015. Doug Goddard

Brown Argus in 2015. Doug Goddard

Silver-washed Fritillary in 2015. Peter Scott



The list of Fineshade's moth and butterfly species are of special scientific interest and make it a site worthy of protection 

This page checked and updated February 2018

bottom of page