Increasing number of invasive moth species are settling in the UK

Increasing number of invasive moth species are settling in the UK


Posted 14th Jun 2018 by Peter Byrne


Moth experts have revealed an increasing number of new moth species are arriving and settling in the UK

In the last 30 years there have been nearly 30 species of pyralid moth recorded within the UK. Of them, eight have become established residents, wildlife publisher Atropos and Butterfly Conservation have said.

This has been linked to the global reach of the horticultural trade and the changing climate.

Pyralid moths include some of the largest and most distinctive varieties of the 1,600 species of micro-moth that can be found in the UK. Around 900 species of generally larger and better known macro-moths are also being found here.

The North Sea and English Channel act as a natural barrier to many potential colonising species, but the horticultural trade offers another route into the UK, with moth eggs, caterpillars and pupae all able to hitch a ride on the imported plants.

Climate change is also playing a part, altering conditions and allowing moths to take advantage of habitats in new areas.

This increase has come at a time when the UK's moths are in decline due to habitat loss and agricultural intensification.

As part of this year's Moth Night - an annual UK-wide event that records and celebrates moths - organisers Atropos, Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology are calling on the public to look for pyralid moths in their gardens, the countryside and at specially organised moth trapping events too.

As pyralid moths are often under-recorded, scientists require new records to find out exactly how they are faring in the UK - and to also spot the new species that arrive.

One such moth is the Musotime nitidalis, which originally came from Australia and New Zealand. It's thought to have arrived in the UK in 2009 due to the horticultural trade and is now found in several locations in southern England where its caterpillars feed on ferns including Bracken.

Many of the pyralid colonists arrived naturally, in part assisted by climate change, including the wonderfully coloured Evergestis limbata. It was first recorded in 1994, and since then, the species has settled along the south coast of England.

Easy to see, the native pyralids include the day-flying Mint Moth, which can be found in garden herb patches as well as in open grassland habitats.

The distinctive black and white Small Magpie and the Mother of Pearl (which has a pearly sheen on its upper wing) can be found in gardens or near nettle patches. Common migrants to look out for include the Rush Veneer and Rusty-dot Pearl.

Another group of pyralid moth, the China-marks, can be found in wetlands, with the caterpillars living in an air-filled bubble of spun leaves at or just beneath the water's surface in ponds and at the edges of streams.

Some pyralids are rare and threatened within the UK - for instance, the White-spotted Sable, which is a declining species of woodland glades and hillsides, and the Scarce Crimson and Gold, which occurs in sand dune habitats in Northern Ireland, but survives on the Isle of Man, having been lost from England and Scotland.

Butterfly Conservation Associate Director of Recording, Richard Fox, said: "This year for the first time Moth Night is focussing on a fascinating group of micro-moths."

"Moths are often portrayed as boring, brown and impossible to identify but pyralids explode these myths with simply stunning species such as the Scarce Crimson and Gold and amazing life histories, such as the Beautiful China-mark, whose caterpillars live under water."

There is also going to be a new guide to pyralid moths, the Field Guide to the Pyralid and Crambid Moths of Britain and Ireland.

Moth Night 2018 is running from 14 to 16 June and includes moth trapping events across the UK.

Image courtesy of Les Hill / Butterfly Conservation





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