A new report issued this week by wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation has revealed that Britain’s larger moth population has dropped by a worrying one third over the last 50 years.
These latest findings are a real concern for nature as moths – along with butterflies and bees – are a crucial indicator of the health of our wider environment.
Dr Richard Fox, Associate Director of Recording and Monitoring at Butterfly Conservation and lead author of the report says:
“This decline is worrying because moths play a vital role in our ecosystems. They are pollinators of many plants, with some wildflowers, such as orchids, relying on visiting moths for reproduction. They also provide essential food for thousands of animal species, including bats and many familiar birds. We’re lucky enough to have almost 900 species of larger moths in Britain (including micro moths Britain has a total of 2,600 species). Because moths are dwindling, we can be pretty sure that other wildlife are also in decline and that our wider environment is deteriorating.”
Habitat destruction, changes in land management and chemical pollution are major causes for the loss of moths in Britain – with climate change another huge factor. Warmer weather means species located in southern regions are tending to expand further northwards, while also causing declines for moths that are adapted to cooler climates.
Moth species affected by the highest rates of decline in Britain over the last 10 years include the Stout Dart, down 81%, Golden Plusia; -58%, Garden Dart; -54%, V-Moth; -54%, Large Thorn; -53%, Lappet; -53%, Oak Lutestring; -52%, Figure of Eight; -48%, Lead Belle; -48% and the Dusky-lemon Sallow, down by 47%.
Halting or reversing species decline is an enormous task, but it’s not impossible, say Butterfly Conservation. Their State of British Moths report – published with the help of partners The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and Rothamsted Research – contains numerous examples of conservation success for very rare and threatened moths. Butterfly Conservation, its partners and volunteers have shown real results in recent years in reversing species at risk of extinction.
In good news, the Jersey Tiger moth, previously confined to south Devon, has spread rapidly across southern Britain in recent decades, with the very rare immigrant, the Rosy Underwing moth, colonising parts of Dorset, and the Devon Carpet moth extending its reach as far north as southern Scotland.
Main image: Rosy Minor – Patrick Clement