British moths have crashed in numbers over past 40 years as part of widespread decline

 

A A A

Some of Britain’s most beautiful moths, such as the stunning garden tiger moth, have crashed in numbers over the past 40 years as part of a widespread decline, a new report reveals today.

Two-thirds of common and widespread larger species (macro-moths) have declined in that time, with losses in abundance much greater in the southern half of Britain than the north, according to the report by the charity Butterfly Conservation, and the agricultural research institute, Rothamsted Research.

Three species have become extinct in the past decade, while some once common garden species such as the garden tiger, the V-moth, and the spinach have decreased by more than 90 per cent from 1968-2007 and now face the real threat of extinction in the future.

The State of Britain’s Larger Moths 2013 reveals that the orange upperwing, the bordered gothic and the Brighton wainscot have all disappeared in the last 10 years, and these follow the extinctions of an additional 62 species during the 20th Century.

The report is based on the Rothamsted Insect Survey, a continuous series of  records running from 1968 to 2007 on common and widespread species, records which represent the longest running national population trends of insect species known anywhere in the world.

It suggests that ongoing habitat loss and the deteriorating condition of the countryside are believed to be the major factors behind these declines.

Some two-thirds of the species recorded declined over the 40-year study, with 37 per cent of them decreasing by at least 50 per cent.  The garden tiger has fallen in numbers by 92 per cent, the spinach moth by 96 per cent and the v-moth by 99 per cent.

The loss of tiger moths may be contributing the disappearance from southern Britain of cuckoos, which feed on their hairy caterpillars.

In the southern half of Britain, larger moth populations decreased by an average of 43 per cent in comparison to an average 11 per cent decline in northern Britain. The reason for the disparity between the two regions is likely to be due to higher levels of habitat loss in the south and the beneficial effect of climate warming on some moths in the north.

While moth populations have declined substantially in the last few decades, the period has also seen an unprecedented influx of new moth species to Britain.

More than 100 species have been recorded for the first time in Britain this century and 27 species have colonised Britain from the year 2000 onwards. Climate change is seen as a major driver for these new colonisers as conditions become more suitable for continental species.

“This report paints a bleak picture about Britain’s biodiversity,” said Butterfly Conservation Surveys Manager and lead author of the new report, Richard Fox. “Much has been made of the decline of butterflies and honey bees but moths represent the massive, but largely unnoticed diversity of insects that form the vast majority of animal life in Britain.

“The severe declines of once common garden moths and overall decrease in moth abundance that we found are a damning indictment of how recent human activity has devastated our native wildlife.”

EU pesticides ban 'could save bees'

Controversial nerve-agent pesticides, which are increasingly implicated in declines in bee populations around the world, may be partially banned in Europe.

The proposal from Brussels to limit the use of neonicotinoids – powerful poisons which have made billions for agribusiness but are seen as a major wildlife hazard – is the most significant development yet in the movement to outlaw the chemicals, and was greeted enthusiastically by environmental campaigners. It follows evidence casting doubt on the safety of neonicotinoids, as highlighted by The Independent.

Studies in the past three years have shown that neonicotinoids have adverse effects on honey bees, although manufacturers such as Bayer and Syngenta continue to insist they are safe.

The European Commission proposes banning their use on crops such as oil seed rape.

Michael McCarthy

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, VBA)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

SQL Developer (TSQL, SSRS, SSAS) Fund Manager - London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer (TSQL, S...

Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, Angular.JS)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, An...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition