Amateur
Entomologists'
Society

Garden Moths Count starts this weekend

Published: 18 June 2009

Garden Moths Count (20-28 June 2009) needs the help of the public, gardeners and their families to become citizen scientists for a night or two in the search for Darwin's moth; the Peppered Moth Biston betularia.

The two different forms of the Peppered Moth
Photograph by Chris Manley

The Peppered Moth is one of the world's best-known examples of evolution by natural selection, Darwin's great discovery, and all the action happened (and continues to this day) here in Britain. In heavily-polluted cities the normal, pale, speckled forms of the Peppered Moth were no longer camouflaged from predators on the soot-blackened trees. Black (called "melanic") versions of the Peppered Moth thrived in these situations and the normal form became quite rare. In recent decades, as pollution has been greatly reduced, the balance swung back the other way. Now black moths are more obvious on the lichen-encrusted tree trunks and so the speckled Peppered Moths have again come to dominate populations. But all is not well with Darwin's moth. Despite its amazing ability to survive the worst of the industrial revolution, numbers of Peppered Moths in Britain have fallen by 61% since the late 1960s. It is not clear what is causing this decline but we need the public's help to find out more. Does the Peppered Moth still live in your garden? If so, are they speckled or black?

In contrast, the beautiful Scarlet Tiger moth, which flies in the daytime, seems to be doing well. Butterfly Conservation think that is it spreading from its traditional strongholds in South-west England and South Wales, probably in response to climate change. However, they do not know how far the species has got. Is it in your garden?

A photograph of the Scarlet Tiger moth
Photograph by Chris Manley

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, all easily recognized and some that can be seen during the day. It takes place from 20-28 June 2009 and further details can be found at: http://www.mothscount.org

Moths Count is a Heritage Lottery funded project run by Butterfly Conservation. The AES is a partner organisation in Moths Count.


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