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Scientists ask for help as moths change and move on

by Louise Keeling (Senior Publicity Officer)
Date: 20/06/2009

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Scientists are appealing for public help in their efforts to understand how human impact is affecting two important moths.

One of these is the beautiful day-flying Scarlet Tiger, which until recently was rarely found outside South West England and South Wales. Now it is increasingly seen further afield, almost certainly as a result of climate change. Scientists want to know how far it has spread in order to assess the impact of climate change on our wildlife.

The other is the Peppered Moth, which evolved in areas of heavy industrial pollution from being white with small black speckles to being almost black. The change made it less obvious to predators against backgrounds of grime and soot. It is regarded as a classic example of natural selection and consequently it is often referred to as “Darwin’s moth”. Now in post-industrial Britain, 200 years after Darwin’s birth the Peppered Moth appears to be reverting to its original appearance, but how far has this change gone?

Scientists are asking people to search their gardens and local parks for both the Scarlet Tiger and the two different types of Peppered Moth over the coming nine days (20-28 June) and to log their sightings as part of Garden Moths Count 2009.

Garden Moths Count is the annual event that raises interest in the moths found in UK gardens. It is part of the national Moths Count project, established after research indicated massive declines in moth numbers, especially in the southern half of Britain. Peppered Moth numbers are down by almost two thirds compared with 40 years ago.

Some people are put off moths by the myth that they all eat clothes. In reality only half a dozen of Britain’s 2,500 moth species do so – and they prefer dirty items that are hidden away in the dark in places where they are not disturbed. Meanwhile, moths are a vital part of nature’s food chain. Blue Tit chicks, for instance, each consume around 100 caterpillars a day.

Moths Count project manager Richard Fox said: “Moths are important indicators and observing them can tell us a lot. They are an essential food source for many birds and they are important pollinators in the garden. Some are very beautiful and, despite their recent decline, there are still very colourful moths to be seen in all of our gardens”.

Sightings of moths seen by day or at night can be logged at the Garden Moths Count website This also explains how to attract moths in simple fun ways, including using a torch or fizzy drink. Full details, including images of moths to look out for as well as details of when they are likely to be seen, can also be found on the website.

For further information contact

Richard Fox
National Moth Recording Scheme Manager , Butterfly Conservation
01626 368 385
07711 657 322

Susan Anders
Garden Moths Count co-ordinator, Butterfly Conservation
01929 406 007

Louise Keeling
Senior Publicity Officer
01929 406 005
07515 889 225

Photo captions
Moths Count Logo (moths-count.jpg

Scarlet Tiger Moth - This beautiful, day-flying moth is spreading to new parts of Britain in response to climate change. Photo by Chris Manley (ScarletTiger.jpg)

Peppered Moths - The normal, speckled Peppered Moth and its melanic (black) form are one of the best known examples of natural selection. The moth has declined by 61% in Britain since the late 1960s for reasons that are unclear. Photo by Chris Manley. (PepperedMoths.jpg)

Notes for Editors

Garden Moths Count is an exciting nationwide online survey and anyone can take part, young or old, without needing to be experts or have special equipment. In addition to the Peppered Moth and Scarlet Tiger, there are 18 other moths to look out for in gardens, all easily recognised and some that can be seen during the day. It takes place from 20-28 June 2009 at Garden Moths Count is part of the Moths Count project, launched by Sir David Attenborough in 2007. It is overseen by the charity Butterfly Conservation and has been developed in consultation with moth recorders, local groups and conservation organisations, with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Butterfly Conservation is the largest insect conservation charity in Europe with nearly 14,000 members in the UK. Its aim is the conservation of butterflies, moths and their habitats. It runs conservation programmes for over 60 threatened species of butterfly and moth and manages over 30 nature reserves. Further information

Butterfly Conservation.
Company limited by guarantee, registered in England (2206468).
Registered Office: Manor Yard, East Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5QP.
Charity registered in England & Wales (254937) and in Scotland (SCO39268)

If you have any questions or require more information about this press release, please contact Louise Keeling (Senior Publicity Officer) by email.

About Our Press Releases

Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire regularly issue press releases on issues in relation to butterfly and moth conservation in the Coventry, Warwickshire and Solihull area alongside occasional press releases covering national stories from Butterfly Conservation's head office.

If you require further information about a specific press release, please contact the specific press release author.

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Notes For Editors
Butterfly Conservation is the largest conservation charity of its type in Europe with over 13,000 members in the UK. Its aim is the conservation of butterflies, moths and their habitats. It runs conservation programmes on over 60 threatened species of butterfly and moth, organises national butterfly recording and monitoring schemes, and manages over 30 nature reserves.

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