Emperor Moth Survey 2017

Mark Dinning Community Conservation, News

Emperor Moth Survey 2017

Emperor moths are common throughout Britain, and are most common on upland moors with heather being a favoured food plant of the moth larvae. Working in partnership with Butterfly Conservation, Durham wildlife Trust will conduct a public-led volunteer survey to gather information on this species’ distribution and conservation in the Durham area. The data gathered will be used to inform future conservation of this species and the habitats where it is found. The project will train a number of volunteers in the ecology, survey and conservation of this evocative moth species and will create an environment in which people can learn new skills, develop new interests and be active whilst contributing to conservation.

A Need for Survey 
Synonymous with heathlands, this day flying moth is perhaps one of the most striking of all UK moth species. The delivery of the survey will be through the use of pheromone lures by volunteers, something recently new to moth surveys. Pheromone lures attract male moths, using a synthesized pheromone of the moth female. This provides quite a unique experience for the surveyors, allowing close up views of a number of males.

The majority of emperor moth populations in the UK are associated with heathlands; habitats on which heather (Calluna vulgaris) is abundant. Lowland Heaths (once more common) have suffered a huge decline in the last 100 years, whilst upland moorland is subject to a range of different management techniques, some detrimental to heather and hence, to the emperor moth and its larvae.

Climate change also poses new challenges to many species, moth and butterfly species are no exception. It is predicted that increased temperatures will lead to increased grass growth on heaths and moorland, replacing heather. It is feared that the hotter summers will lead to a change in the plant community, the warmer winters increasing pest species such as heather beetle and droughts brought on by drier summers altering the community composition and increasing the susceptibility to wildfire with managed burns may becoming a more commonly used management option. The drier ground conditions would lead to marginal land becoming more suitable for intensive agriculture. Bracken would develop in higher-altitude areas where it could out-growing the heather.

This project will not only introduce people to the exciting world of moths but will set a baseline figure for the emperor moth population for the surveyed sites. A simple repeatable survey will inform future conservation of heathland moth species.

Survey Training:
May 3rd @ Low Barns with a site visit to a DWT heathland site (11am Start, 3pm Finish)
May 6th @ Low Barns with a site visit to a DWT heathland site (11am Start, 3pm Finish)

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Want to find out more? Email; species@durhamwt.co.uk