Glasgow & SW Scotland Butterflies

Glasgow & SW Scotland Branch Website

April 17, 2010

Scottish Cinnabar Moth Survey

Filed under: Conservation and Habitat Management, Moths — Tags: , , , , — Scott Shanks @ 5:29 pm

This survey, which began last year, is continuing through 2010.

Cinnabar moth

Cinnabar moth

Like many of the commoner moths, the Cinnabar has undergone a long-term decline in recent decades (83% over 35 years, based on Rothamsted trap data) and at the UK level is now regarded as a vulnerable species (see ‘The State of Britain’s Larger Moths’ report). It remains widespread across England & Wales, but is much scarcer in Scotland, where it is most often seen in coastal areas. Butterfly Conservation, with support from the Moths Count team, wants to learn more about where it occurs and this is most easily done by spotting the colourful orange and black caterpillars which feed on ragwort leaves, often in such large numbers that they strip the plants completely.

Cinnabar caterpillars feeding on Ragwort

Cinnabar caterpillars feeding on Ragwort

The caterpillars can be seen in July and August; the equally striking adult moth has a long flight season, starting in late May and, because it is easily disturbed during the day and will fly when it’s sunny, may also be recorded during the same period.
Postcards showing both the larva and adult were widely distributed in 2009 and further publicity is planned for this year. People are being asked to send in any sightings using either the postcards or directly by e-mail to Barry Prater , the Moth Recorder for Berwickshire. barry@prater.myzen.co.uk

There was a pleasing response from BC members and others and the map shows all the 2009 records received; if you know of more from last year do please send them in.

Cinnabar moth distribution map
Cinnabar moth distribution map

One of the objectives of the survey is to highlight the issue of moth conservation in the context of the overall pressure on biodiversity. The reliance of Cinnabar larvae on the widespread but controversial plant ragwort, known to be toxic to horses, may raise conflicts of interest, but a very helpful leaflet ‘Ragwort Friend or Foe’, prepared jointly by Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife and the British Horse Society is available from the BC Scotland page of the main BC website. The leaflet outlines the benefits and problems of ragwort and gives advice on its management. http://www.butterfly-conservation.org/uploads/RAGWORT%20leaflet%20June%202008(2).pdf
Anyone who lives here or others who visit the area during the summer can help by taking part in the survey.

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