Suffolk nature reserve reveals new species of butterflies and moths in UK

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A popular nature reserve has been revealed as a haven for a stunning variety of moths and butterflies, with the official count exceeding 1,000 species.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said its Minsmere reserve in Suffolk is already renowned as one of the best places to see and enjoy bird life.

Now, thanks to the hard work of the assistant warden Robin Harvey, it could soon become just as famous as a home for insects.

Since arriving at Minsmere three years ago, Mr Harvey has been able to indulge his passion for moths, working with Jeff Higgot, a volunteer entomologist, to find and catalogue the different species on the reserve.

When they started work in 2003, some 665 different types of lepidoptera, as moths and butterflies are collectively known, had been recorded.

The RSPB said that their work has taken the tally to more than 1,000 and it is still climbing.

Mr Harvey said: "We've added about 350 species to the list in that time. In a lot of cases no one had really had the time to look for them before. There have been lots of early starts and late finishes. With a moth trap you never quite know what you are going to get in it, and it's like getting a present every day. You might find a first for Britain in there."

In September 2004 the team at the reserve did just that, finding a type of Mediterranean moth never before seen in the UK. And, since Catocala conjuncta did not have an English name, it was christened the Minsmere Crimson Underwing.

Mr Harvey said: "There are now 1,018 species of moths and butterflies at Minsmere out of a total of 2,500 in Britain.

"That includes 32 butterflies, amongst which are the spectacular Camberwell Beauty and the Queen of Spain Fritillary." He added: "The next target is 1,000 moths - and we aren't far off.

"There are parts of the reserve we haven't covered yet. We have a conifer plantation we haven't been to yet, for example, and I'm sure we will find some more species in there." Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB's director of conservation, said: "Minsmere is a great place for birds, but also for a whole range of other wildlife including otters, beetles, snakes and butterflies and moths. The work we do on our nature reserves makes them wonderful places for birds and for wildlife as a whole."

Martin Warren, the chief executive of Butterfly Conservation, said: "Butterflies and moths are generally in steep decline in Britain, so it is great news they are thriving at Minsmere under the special care of the RSPB. The reserve is a superb demonstration of what can be achieved to reverse the decline of our wildlife and we hope it can be replicated around the country."

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