Rare moth reintroduced into Cotswolds09/10/2012 15:43:37 Partnership project culminates in rare moth reintroduction in the Cotswold Water Park
October 2012. During September 2012 ecologists striving to secure the future of the nationally endangered Barberry Carpet moth, established a new population of this species near Ashton Keynes in the Cotswold Water Park.
The Barberry Carpet moth is so-named because it depends upon the scarce Barberry bush to thrive. Barberry is a hedgerow bush similar to Hawthorn or Sloe, but with yellow flowers and yellowy-orange fruits. The adult moth lays eggs only on the Barberry bush and without this species the moth cannot complete its life cycle. Barberry is now a scarce hedgerow plant; during the nineteenth century it was found to be a host of wheat rust, a fungal disease of wheat. Consequently, it was uprooted across much of the UK and today Barberry plants, and other species relying upon it, are now very rare.
Less than a dozen UK colonies
Some of the last remaining colonies of the Barberry carpet moth may be found in the south-western part of the Cotswold Water Park and in North Wiltshire's Braydon Forest. Historically, much of this area, between Ashton Keynes, Minety and Malmesbury, was traditionally largely an area of pasture rather than arable farming, and hence arable farmers in the past were less focused upon removing all Barberry to safeguard their crops. Today, wheat rust is more effectively combated by highly effective fungicides than by eradicating Barberry.800 caterpillars
A number of Barberry Carpet moth colonies remain in this area, but in order to increase and strengthen the presence of this moth across this landscape, an additional colony has been created in Ashton Keynes. The confidential site was selected for the introduction of over 800 Barberry Carpet moth caterpillars because it supports a large number of mature Barberry bushes.
The Cotswold Water Park Trust has been supporting the Barberry Carpet moth recovery programme since 2007; the conservation of local populations of this nationally endangered moth species was identified in the Cotswold Water Park Biodiversity Action Plan 2007-2016. The overall objective has been to restore this species at a landscape-scale, ensuring that remaining colonies are re-connected in the landscape by planting a new network of Barberry. This will increase the health and strength of the remaining populations and support their growth.
Gareth Harris, Biodiversity Manager, Cotswold Water Park Trust, says "Conservation of the Barberry Carpet moth should be fairly straightforward; it's suffering from the lack of its larval foodplant. By restoring Barberry to the landscape we can enhance existing Barberry Carpet moth populations and re-connect those that are distant. Creating a new colony in Ashton Keynes will further strengthen the series of colonies found across the landscape here"
And not only the Barberry Carpet moth benefits; "Improved hedgerow management benefits a range of other species. Where new hedgerows have been planted, a high proportion of Blackthorn has also been included in order to support the expansion of the Brown Hairstreak butterfly in the area. Songbirds will also benefit from the new nesting sites and winter berries," says Gareth.
"After many years of hard work by staff and volunteers at Natural England, Butterfly Conservation and Cotswold Water Park Trust the introduction, and hopefully establishment, of a new colony in Ashton Keynes will secure the presence of this species in the area for generations to come", comments project volunteer John Grearson, from Ashton Keynes.
The Cotswold Water Park Trust, supported by funds from the Lower Mill Estate section 106 fund (which is administered by Cotswold District Council) has undertaken a programme of re-planting Barberry at a number of sites across the CWP, focussing efforts on wetland reserves. The Trust avoided planting Barberry near to any arable farmland to prevent any unease in the local farming community.
Cotswold Water Park Trust & Butterfly Conservation thanks Lower Mill Estate and Cotswold District Council for financially supporting this work, and thanks all of the landowners and lake owners who have supported this project.