Rare night loving moth found in the Bannau Brycheiniog

(For release 3rd August 2011)

The rare Silurian moth was discovered as a result of recent moth night surveys which have taken place in the last few months on several sections of the Black Mountains  – on common land cared for and managed by the Local Graziers, landowners and the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority. 

With funding support from Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority the night  surveys were organised by Dave Grundy a moth expert from Birmingham, Robin Hemming from Herefordshire and Dr Norman Lowe of the Brecknock Moth Group.

To find out which moths live in a particular area, the moths are lured towards light traps where they are carefully collected, identified and released.  The light traps were set up in various locations over the last few months and the researchers were rewarded by the sight of almost a dozen Silurian moths appearing in the traps at a remote part of the Hatterall Ridge on the night of the 4th July. The species was first recorded in the UK in 1976 on a hillside in Blaenau Gwent and this is the first time it has been ever been found anywhere else.

The moth caterpillars live on bilberry plants which are found across Hatterill Hill a unique common which is also afforded the additional protection of being a SSSI.

Clive Williams, Eastern Area Manager for Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority said:  “Discovering the Silurian Moth in the Black Mountains is a find of extreme importance.  It’s extremely rare because this creature is a real upland specialist and only flies from around 1am onwards, meaning that it is not usually detected by moth surveyors. The sighting of scarce moths on this common is especially welcome, as it shows that careful management from the graziers has created a habitat that has encouraged this rare species to survive. This is exciting news not only for increasing the biodiversity of wildlife – especially for those species that have been recognised as being an endangered but also because we can now officially confirm the Silurian Moths presence on the Black Mountains in both Monmouthshire and Herefordshire. We hope to be able to work with the local graziers, landowners and moth specialists in the near future to find out more about this creature’s habits and behaviour.”

Dave Grundy, Moth expert from Birmingham said:  “We have been searching for this particular species on areas of suitable habitat within the Black Mountains for quite some time.  When we finally found it, the moth behaved very oddly in the trap, running round in circles. We wondered whether this was the reason for its scientific name Eriopygodes imbecilla which roughly translates as ‘idiot’.”

Dr Norman Lowe from the Brecknock Moth Group said:   “The Silurian moth is so rare that it is on the Red Data Book list of endangered species –  in fact making it the only endangered species in the Black Mountains. The survey has proved that the species is not confined to only a single site, but that it occurs in other areas too which is good news for the long term survival of this species in Wales. Moths have an important place within natural food chains and are good indicators of the general condition of the natural environment as they are intimately connected to particular plant species upon which the caterpillars feed. This is a new species for the Bannau Brycheiniog and adds another name to the list of over 1000 species of moth found within the National Park.”

Margaret Underwood, Member Champion for Biodiversity for Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority said:  “While it may only be one small moth – it is still part of the wonderful web of life upon which we all depend. The good news is that we now have two known populations of this rare moth within striking distance of each other. This means we are one step closer to ensuring another part of our natural world remains intact.”

The survey work was funded by the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority’s Conservation and Community Fund that administers grants to environmental projects from donations that have come from companies using the National Park as a filming destination.

Clare Parson, Sustainable Communities Manager said:  “ We are delighted that this survey work has been successful and congratulate Dave, Robin and Norman for all the hard work and long hours put into the search. It shows that the modest grant amounts available can be used to real effect for gaining a greater understanding of the natural habitats and species within the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park.

For more information regarding the National Park Authority’s Conservation and Community Fund please contact Clare Parsons on 01874 620 234 or email clare.parsons@breconbeacons.org