Douglas's picture

Burnished Brass

Observed: 19th June 2011 By: Douglas
Butterfly Conservation
Invertebrates expert
Burnished Brass
Burnished Brass - head

Burnished Brass caught at home with MV trap.
I shan't get into the "raging" debate as to whether this is 'Cryptic Burnished Brass', which may or may not be present in the UK!! And as no British recording groups seem to be splitting them, I record all as one. After talking to various experts I've decided to wait until a more 'official' announcement. What with the view about hybridisation between the species, I think more work needs to be done. I do welcome any comments if I've totally mis-understood it all though!!

Species interactions

No interactions present.

Species with which Burnished Brass (Diachrysia chrysitis agg.) interacts


nightfly's picture

Hi Douglas, I posted a

Hi Douglas,
I posted a burnished brass recently and added f. aurea, based on the illustration on page 270 of WTL 2009. The other one offered is f.juncta, which is totally consistent with your moth above.

I just want to ask, because you seem to know your moths and know them well, is the info provided in WTL 2009 not necessarily to be taken as gospel? Is it the case that species and their subspecies are not 'cast in stone' so to speak? Til now I have been under the impression that what this book says goes!

Is this asking for trouble?




Douglas's picture

I will just say, yes

I will just say, yes definitely don't take WTL as 'gospel', don't get me wrong I think it's the best guide. But with this type of thing popular view can change very quickly, what with research and DNA (which I believe has confirmed the two species). I think there are a few cases where the info in WTL is now no longer thought accurate.

In this case it is thought there could be a second species, looking like (or being) the f.juncta, and there is uncertainty as to whether it's in Britain but I think the consensus is that it is existent.

However all UK counties (that I know of) aren't worrying about recording these Burnished separately so it's not something to get too worried about.

I'll leave someone else to talk about the finer points of the taxonomy though!!

Long and short of it; lots more research needs to be done before we start recording Cryptic Burnished Brassed (hence the 'agg.')

Hope that hasn't confused you further!!

Best wishes,


nightfly's picture

Thanks Douglas,I will err on

Thanks Douglas,

I will err on the cautious side from now on. I hadnt actually heard the name Cryptic Burnished Brass til now, I just saw the aurea and juncta 'forms' indicated in WTL.

Thanks for this insight into moth classification in general. I think I'll refrain from using the 'forms' of burnished brass for the immediate future and follow your lead by using 'agg'.

Grateful once again,


DavidHowdon's picture


I'm not sure who would issue a "definitive" ruling on this.

Colin Plant's paper in a peer reviewed journal (see discussion here - sets out that examples of both species have definitely been found in the UK. I've not seen any papers published disputing that finding.

nightfly's picture

Hi, I am only really getting

Hi, I am only really getting into this aspect of mothing and accurate classification(forgive me if I dont always use perfectly scientific terminilogy, I am far from a scientist!), but I think its interesting that the above burnished brass concurs perfectly with the illustration of f.juncta in WTL 2009 and the specimen I posted yesterday or the previous day, is an exact representation of what the book calls f. aurea.

We have both 'forms' posted here in the last couple of days, and clear examples at that. I will just 'watch this space' so to speak as to what scientific opinion says about them as time goes on, all very interesting!


Edit- David, I see the issue now having read the discussion, I wasnt aware of the migrant which looks identical to 'f. juncta', it isnt offered in my WTL at all. I'll leave it there because I could only be confusing the thing due to an inadequate grasp of the situation. Dont mind me!


DavidHowdon's picture


The problem with field guides is that even the good ones (and WTL is a good one) are out of date pretty much as soon as they are published.

The nice thing about modern mothing is that with sites like this you get to find out about the developments without having to read all the scientific journals yourself.

RHoman's picture

Whatever one's views about

Whatever one's views about the Burnished Brass "problem" now, it seems to me to be a missed opportunity to use the term 'aggregate' in records for the Diachrysia(s). If a note is taken of the wing pattern and comparison is made against one of the forms, ideally backed up by a photograph, then it would be possible to ascribe a moth to one of the "new" species as well as being able to just go for Burnished Brass should the current debate come to nought. A record of Diachrysia chrysitis agg. cannot be disaggregated, whereas a record with additional info can always be aggregated should the need arise. I assume the "experts" referred to above were from the UK? A short hop across across the Channel would show Cryptic Burnished Brass in the French Checklist. The relevant species page of Fauna Europaea shows CBB to be widely distributed across Europe -

Robert Homan

Douglas's picture

This may be of interest to

This may be of interest to some, a quote from Martin Honey at the NHM, replying when I asked him about this last year:

"This is very complex and complicated. There is a general consensus (including here) that chrysitis and stenochrysitis are separate species – within their area of distribution. One is a western species (chrysitis – type locality Europe) and one an eastern species (stenochrysis – type locality Japan). The problem arises when one looks at the western edge of the distribution of stenochrysis and the eastern boundary of chrysitis. Quite possibly they overlap and may even hybridise (as is known to occur in other species of moth). The whole thing was further complicated by Kostrowicki in 1961 when he described tutti (type locality Poland), which is considered to be a synonym of stenochrysis – so theoretically, there are two species in Europe."

"However, no-one has yet resolved the stenochrysis-tutti problem.

Despite this, the Fauna Europaea website shows both species as occurring throughout most European countries.

The genitalia of the two ‘species’ are very similar and show slight variation (the genitalia of plusiines are also know to show clinal variation across their range, so this adds a further complication). Most researchers consider that there are too many questions still unresolved to give a definitive answer. More work is needed – looking at the dna of the two populations and of the overlap zone, pheromones, breeding experiments, etc.

To quote the authors of Noctuidae Europaea 10, “The taxonomic interpretation of the D. chrysitis species complex is one of the evergreen problems in European Noctuidae taxonomy”.

For my part, I err on the side of caution and tend to regard all European specimens as chrysitis with, perhaps, a few stenochrysis look-alike specimens."

Best wishes,


DavidHowdon's picture

Aggregates et al

Not sure I can agree with RHoman's argument above. My understanding from the Plant paper is that

1) moths of f. aurea are definitely chrysitis
2) stenochrysis is present in the UK
3) moths of f. juncta may
i) all be a form of our chrysitis,
ii) all be stenochrysis,
iii) or be one or the other but require dissection to determine.

Given 3)iii) is a possiblity I don't think we can definitively say that this is either Burnished Brass or Cryptic Burnished Brass - although it is a good candidate for the later.

Ideally I suppose H form BBs should be retained for dissection.

So much for Douglas's stated desire to stay out of the "raging debate".