A once-extinct moth has recolonised large parts of the UK by gaining a foothold in abandoned industrial sites, conservationists said today.
The small ranunculus moth disappeared from the UK before the Second World War, but reappeared from Europe in the late 1990s, establishing itself in brownfield sites such as abandoned quarries and spreading along roadside verges.
Brownfield sites typically hold plants that the moth's larvae feed on and have proved important for the species' recovery, wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation said.
Old quarries, disused railway lines, gravel pits and spoil tips are also key habitats for threatened and common moths and other wildlife.
The six-belted clearwing, a moth which mimics a wasp, also relies on brownfield land, as do rare species such as the four-spotted, the wormwood and the bright wave moths and more common insects such as the elephant hawk-moth.
But Butterfly Conservation warned that brownfield sites were under-recorded and threatened by Government policy which favours building on previously-used land rather than greenfield sites.
The annual "moth night", organised by Butterfly Conservation and butterfly, moth and dragonfly journal Atropos, is focusing on the wildlife of brownfield sites with surveys across the UK and efforts to map the return of the small ranunculus.
Richard Fox, Butterfly Conservation surveys manager, said: "Brownfield sites provide some of the best wildlife sites in the UK for moths, butterflies and other wildlife and yet are highly threatened by redevelopment and bland landscaping schemes.
"We hope moth night 2012 will raise awareness of the beautiful moths that live in these underrated habitats and improve our knowledge of the wildlife importance of brownfield sites."
Atropos editor Mark Tunmore said: "We hope that as many people will get involved in recording moths as possible during Britain's annual celebration of moths by submitting sightings via the website.
"It doesn't matter in what environment or part of the country you live in - you will have moths in close proximity and you may be stunned by how spectacular some of these are."
Moth night 2013 runs from June 21-23 and includes daytime searches and night-time recording of moths across the UK.
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