Our recent Nature Discovery event with the BHive at Bowling Harbour resulted in a very exciting discovery! As part of the event we conducted a mini “bioblitz” – a chance for us to record as much wildlife as possible within the harbour area. We were pleased to be joined by the local vice county moth recorder Alan Kerr, who set up an overnight light trap to find out what species of moths live in the area. Alan was delighted to discover an interesting-looking micro moth in his trap and, being unsure of its identity, sent it to Dr. Mark Young of the Scottish Micro Moth verification panel. Dr Young confirmed that the moth was in fact Donacaula forficella – a new species for Scotland! The distribution of this species has previously been believed to be restricted to England, Wales and parts of Ireland, and has never been recorded in Scotland before. This species is known to live near water as the larva like to feed on reeds, and interestingly the caterpillars will make a little raft out of plant material to allow them to float to a new food plant.
Donacaula forficella by Alan Kerr
What’s all the fuss about moths?
Despite their very close relationship with the much-loved butterfly, moths are misunderstood and are often seen as nothing more than an unwelcome visitor through a lit window on summer evenings. However, moths are a fascinating and diverse group – we have around 2500 species in the UK alone, compared to just 59 species of butterfly, and they come in a stunning array of colours, patterns, sizes and shapes.
Moths are also an intrinsic part of our ecosystem – they provide food for bats and birds, and moth caterpillars are a vital food source for young birds. Species such as garden visitor favourites blue tits rely on moth caterpillars to feed their young – with 8-12 chicks per nest, and each chick needing to eat around 100 caterpillars a day, that’s a lot of caterpillars! Some adult moths pollinate flowers by feeding on nectar, and moths, along with butterflies, are also excellent indicator species. Changes in their distributions and populations can help us to understand how issues such as climate change, habitat destruction and pollution are affecting our native wildlife. Could Donacaula forficella be moving northwards in response to our warming climate? Find out more about why moths matter on the Butterfly Conservation website.
Marvellous moths! Clockwise from top left: elephant hawkmoth, magpie moth, white ermine, ruby tiger by Claire Martin