A Mint Moth (Pyrausta aurata) Picture: Mark Parsons/Butterfly Conservation

Members of the public are being invited to look out for moths in their gardens and the countryside this week.

Moth Night, an annual UK-wide event to record and celebrate moths, is organised by wildlife publisher Atropos, the Butterfly Conservation charity and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.

This year, it runs from June 14-16, with a focus on pyralids. Species in this family of moths, although gentically related, are very diverse. Pyralids include some of the largest and most distinctively marked of the 1,600 species of micro-moths found in the UK.

Scientists are appealing for new sightings to see how pyralid species are faring in the UK and to establish if there are newcomers.

An increasing number of new moth species are arriving and settling in the UK as a result of the global reach of the horticultural trade and the changing climate. Almost 30 new species of pyralid moth have been recorded in the UK in the past 30 years with eight becoming established residents.

Centre for Ecology & Hydrology ecologist Dr Marc Botham said: “Pyralids are a captivating but relatively poorly known group of moths. 

“The three days and nights of Moth Night 2018 are an ideal opportunity to search for them in your garden or further afield, including at organised events.

“By submitting your sightings via our website you are helping with research to understand the status of UK wildlife.”

Easy-to-see 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 sports a pearly sheen on its upper wings can also be found in gardens or near nettle patches. Common migrants to look out for included the Rush Veneer and Rusty-dot Pearl.

Another group of pyralid moths, the China-marks, are found in wetlands, their caterpillars living in an air-filled bubble of spun leaves at or just under the water’s surface in ponds and at the edges of streams.

CEH ecologist Dr Tom August has recently developed an app What’s Flying Tonight, in partnership with Butterfly Conservation and UKMoths, to make it easier to identify species of moths. It contains moth images, flight charts and the frequency that each species has been recorded based on your location and the date.

Moth Night also includes organised trapping events. For details of events and to submit sightings, see www.mothnight.info


Staff page of Dr Marc Botham

Dr Tom August's blog on the What’s Flying Tonight app

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