Six-year-old girl discovers Asian moth in UK

By Lauren Turner,Press Association
Sunday 23 October 2011 05:01

A shrub-eating moth has been discovered in the UK for the first time - thanks to the keen eye of a six-year-old girl.

Katie Dobbins' father Julian took a photograph of the furry moth after she found its body at their home in Upper Bucklebury, Berkshire.

He uploaded it onto a wildlife website run by the Open University with the message: "My daughter found this strange moth on our windowsill. Very keen to find out what it is... and why it is so furry."

To everyone's surprise, an Open University nature expert quickly identified the creature as an Euonymus Leaf Notcher, native to Asia.

An Open University spokeswoman said: "The UK moth fauna is very well-studied so it's unusual for brand new species to be found.

"It's even more unusual for a new moth species to be so distinctive and brightly coloured.

"However, insects do frequently get moved around the world with the plant trade and that may explain how it got here."

The moth, which has previously been found in America, will now be handed over to the Natural History Museum to form part of its collection.

The spokeswoman added: "Katie Dobbins is a wildlife enthusiast who has recently started enjoying visits to the Natural History Museum.

"She is very excited at all the activity around her unusual find."

The Open University's iSpot website allows wildlife fans to share information with experts and each other.

Martin Harvey, a researcher at the Open University's Biodiversity Observatory, who identified the moth, said: "Katie's find demonstrates the power of the internet, and iSpot in particular, in helping everyone learn about wildlife.

"Within 24 hours, Katie's moth had been identified on iSpot, confirmed by Martin Honey, curator in the Department of Entomology at the Natural History Museum, and an expert in Taiwan.

"This find may just be a one-off, or it could be harbinger of establishment in the UK.

"The moth is regarded as a something of pest in America and Asia, but its food plants are restricted to ornamental shrubs."

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