The Moth Count Project was launched today by Sir David Attenborough. The project aims to involve thousands of volunteers in monitoring populations of moths through the National Moth Recording Scheme, which is expected to be the largest project of its kind in the world. The hope is that more detailed information will highlight locations where species are struggling so measures to spark recoveries can be taken.
Recent reports by Butterfly Conservation and Rothamsted highlight the demise of these relatives to the much loved butterfly over the past years. Since 1968 moth species across the UK have declined by a third, with the picture being more serious for southern Britain with numbers down by almost 50%.
Moths are an important and integral part of the British ecosystem and should not be rejected as pests, or even the poor relatives of butterflies. They provide a vital source of food for small mammals and birds, and are an important pollinator of many plant species.
The decline of Britain’s moths is blamed on changes in habitat, pesticide use, light pollution and climate change. For example, the garden tiger moth prefers dry winters and has been declining as winter rainfall has increased. It is likely to suffer further from declining numbers and range contractions due to climate change.
For more details on the moth species of Britain, visit the following resources:
In my opinion the best field guide, showing the moths in resting position, is:
Waring, P. & Townsend, M. (2003) Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland. British Wildlife Publishing. (1600 + illustrations by Richard Lewington).
Atropos – a journal for butterfly, moth and dragonfly enthusiasts, with photo section and site reports.
Journal of Insect Conservation – aimed more at the scientist or advanced enthusiasts. This journal contains many articles on Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) and other insect species.