AN international expert on moths and butterflies with a zest for the great outdoors has died.

Reg Fry, who lived in Lawford, sadly died aged 81 following a few days in hospital on June 24.

The granddad had been struggling with a debilitating lung condition for several years which required continuous supplies of oxygen, but his family said this never stopped his love for life.

Mr Fry was born on May 8, 1939, in Oxfordshire and his birth date was etched in history in 1945 as his sixth birthday was on VE Day, marking victory for the allies in Europe.

With this year marking the 75th anniversary of VE Day several Lawford residents went to visit Mr Fry to sing him happy birthday.

Entomology - the study of insects - was Mr Fry's lifelong interest which started at the age of 13 years old when his mother brought an eyed hawkmoth home from the bakery where she worked.

To his amazement, it laid a large number of eggs and Mr Fry set about learning how to rear the eggs through to caterpillars – several pupated and emerged as adult moths.

Mr Fry would repeat this rearing process many times throughout his life, taking and publishing many excellent photos which would blossom in to his website.

Entomology was his consuming hobby and Mr Fry became involved in the Amateur Entomologists’ Society (AES), became its treasurer while his wife organised the publications, and later he was honoured as a Fellow of the AES.

As his hobby developed, so did his career.

Mr Fry started work in a bicycle repair shop at 15.

At 18 he joined the General Post Office and worked his way up the ranks by merit to become British Telecom’s chief engineer for East Anglia.

By the 1980’s Mr Fry and his family were living in Essex and he took early retirement when he was 49 which gave him more time for his family and his entomology.

In 1991 he compiled what is still the "bible for insect conservation" called Habitat Conservation for Insects – A Neglected Green Issue.

Mr Fry was very proud that Prince Charles wrote the foreword to this book.

In 1996 A Guide to Moth Traps and Their Use was published which needed a second edition by 2001.

Mr Fry has been described as legendary to anyone fascinated by butterflies and moths by his friend and former chief executive of Essex Wildlife Trust John Hall, MBE.

Mr Hall, of Grange Road, Lawford, said: "These books and his website are a tremendous legacy to Mr Fry’s meticulous work and there is an onus on all entomologists that this legacy is treasured into the future.

"The importance of Reg’s work was highlighted recently when a speculative developer tried to gain planning permission to build 110 houses on Lawford Tye Field, just to the rear of Reg’s garden.

"Reg was incensed that such a biodiverse site could be lost to building."

Mr Fry and Mr Hall presented evidence to the public inquiry which was found to be both credible and persuasive, and added weight to the planning inspector dismissing the development and saving the field from a housing development.

Mr Hall added: "Even in his 80th year Reg, supported by his wife and family, was helping us tackle inappropriate habitat destruction – a lesson for professional and amateur entomologists alike as to the worth of their calling.

"To his family Reg was a thoughtful, loving husband, dad and grandpa who lived life to the full: to conservationists he was the champion for moths and butterflies.

"On behalf of Lepidoptera and environmentalists everywhere, thank you Reg for your passion and support for the natural world."

Mr Fry's website contains more than 12,000 photographs of about 2,084 species of butterflies and moths.