23 Jul 14

Good news for the Sussex emerald moth, found only in Dungeness

This rare species of moth is unique to Dungeness and recent years have seen numbers falling. The moth feeds on wild carrot, which is also a favourite grub for local rabbits.

Local landowners EDF Energy, Magnox Limited, RSPB and Cemex have been working with Natural England Butterfly Conservation and Romney Marsh Countryside Partnership to grow wild carrot in trial areas, and their efforts have been worthwhile with moth larvae recorded in each of the plots.

“This is rewarding news,” said Christine Blythe, Biodiversity Manager at EDF Energy. “We proved last year that we can get wild carrot to grow on the shingle from seed and now, by finding the larvae, we have shown that the population of Sussex emerald moth is benefiting”.

Dungeness is the only known location in Britain where this nationally rare moth can be found. The population has been dwindling probably due to a combination of environmental factors including high winter rainfall levels and grazing by rabbits on the wild carrot.

To give the moths a helping hand, the partners have each set up trial sites where the vegetated shingle habitat has been fenced off from rabbits. Wild carrot seed, collected locally, was sown in the plots and following surveys carried out this spring the project team has revealed good news that Sussex emerald moth larvae have been found in each of the fenced-off sites.

Natalie Holt, site warden at the RSPB Dungeness said: “The aim of the partnership is to continue managing the trial plots ensuring that we have good numbers of wild carrot plants for the moth larvae to feed on. Ultimately we hope to establish a healthy population of the Sussex emerald moth which can spread to a wider area, to ensure that we don’t lose this insect which is unique to the shingle at Dungeness”.

Jo Dear of Natural England added, “The early success is hugely rewarding for the partnership and a testament to all the hard work and goodwill put in by everyone involved. In response to the recent decline in numbers of the Sussex emerald moth at Dungeness, the partnership’s actions are already making a significant contribution towards its continued breeding success. Natural England is delighted to support this innovative project and by working together across the Dungeness peninsula the partnership is providing a lifeline for the Sussex emerald moth on this extraordinary site.”

Last year, Dungeness B power station was awarded the Wildlife Trusts’ Biodiversity Benchmark in recognition of its work to protect the unique flora and fauna of the vegetated shingle surrounding the Kent power station. More information can be found here: