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Rare moth found near Fakenham

PUBLISHED: 17:30 30 October 2009 | UPDATED: 10:59 07 July 2010

A tiny rare moth, not thought to have been recorded in Norfolk before, has been spotted on one of the county's nature reserves.

It brings to 500 the number of species of moth found at the Hawk and Owl Trust's Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve, near Fakenham.

A tiny rare moth, not thought to have been recorded in Norfolk before, has been spotted on one of the county's nature reserves.

It brings to 500 the number of species of moth found at the Hawk and Owl Trust's Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve, near Fakenham.

Moth expert Jon Clifton, who has studied the creatures at the reserve since 2004, made the discovery while running an evening course about moths attracted to light traps.

With a wingspan of just 12mm, the micro moth was so small it had to be examined under a microscope before its identity was confirmed as the nationally-rare bactra robustana.

Reserve warden and conservation officer Nigel Middleton said: “This moth may be tiny but it is an important part of the rich biodiversity at Sculthorpe Moor supporting the wild birds of prey that are top predators on the reserve.

“The variety of different habitats on the reserve is the reason for the large number of moth species found here and Jon predicts the number of species he records will continue to increase in future years.”

“Since Jon has been doing these studies we have found several new records for Norfolk and several red-listed species.

“Jon is an expert in his field but there are not enough people doing this work. It's great to have the first record for Norfolk, although this species may have always been there but no-one's recorded it before.”

Mr Middleton said the reserve had also catalogued 83 different types of water beetle, but the trust's main goal was sustaining the eight species of birds of prey which breed there.

“Little owls eat moths regularly, and birds like hobbys and kestrels are also insect eaters,” he said. “It is all part of the big picture. The moths are an important indicator of our biodiversity. Each one needs a different micro-habitat and here we have reed-beds, woodland, wetland and grassland.”

The bactra robustana moth is believed to be a migrant from coastal areas in the south-east of England and belongs to the family tortricidae.

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