iSpot features moth new to Britain

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The OPAL iSpot project (see previous post) has had an exciting few days – a moth, found by six-year-old Katie Dobbins in Berkshire, was posted on iSpot, and has turned out to be a species not recorded in Britain before: Pryeria sinica, the Euonymus Leaf-notcher. This is native to Asia but has been found in a couple of places in the States since 2001.

Further details and more photos are on the Berkshire Moth Group website.

Thanks to Katie Dobbins for getting her dad to report the moth, and to Martin Honey of the Natural History Museum for his help in confirming its identity. Full details will be published as soon as possible, and the specimen is being passed on to the NHM.

This may well be just a one-off importation with plants or packaging, but it’s emerged via the Back Garden Moths forum that the Euonymus Leaf-notcher was also seen in Spain last June, the only other record for Europe that we’ve heard of (so far!).

The Open University press office have made good use of the story and so far it’s been picked up by the Express, Mail and Mirror. As usual the papers have their own perspective on this, and according to taste the moth is either the “UK’s rarest moth” or the next major pest outbreak.

All good fun, and hopefully Katie has enjoyed her encounters with biodiversity and the media!

links from Moths and the Media talk

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Here are the links to many of the websites referred to in the “Moths and the Media” talk I gave in Newbury on 19 May 2009, for Butterfly Conservation and BBOWT, and again for Moths Count at the South Wales Moth Recorders’ Gathering, September 2009.

Many of the links, including most of the ‘serious’ mothing identification sites and online resources for moth recorders, have already been listed in my previous post on this subject and aren’t repeated here. The ones that are new:

Additional mothing sites

Online mapping and grid references

  • Where’s the path – OS maps and Google aerial photos side-by-side (this site has recently moved URL)
  • Grab a grid reference – excellent innovation from Keith Balmer for Bedfordshire Natural History Society, displays grid reference squares at various resolutions over Google maps and aerials (works throughout UK)

Moth-related blogs (a small and fairly random selection from among many)

Moth miscellany

Award for David Lonsdale

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I’m delighted to hear that David Lonsdale has been awarded this year’s Marsh Award for Insect Conservation. Many years ago I volunteered as Conservation Officer for the Amateur Entomologists’ Society, under David’s guidance, and have fond memories of his friendly supervision, his expert and detailed knowledge, and his untiring dedication to the cause of conserving invertebrates. Strong memories also of his beady eye for any deviations from good English and scientific accuracy!

David is still active within the AES, editing their Invertebrate Conservation News among other activities, and also supports the Ancient Tree Forum and Buglife, among others. He (along with Reg Fry) was instrumental in getting the first book published on insect conservation in the UK, the AES’s “Habitat Conservation for Invertebrates – A Neglected Green Issue” (1991).

This award for David is thoroughly well-deserved, congratulations, and long may his inspiring work continue.

reactions to insects

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Spent today manning the Bucks Invertebrate Group stall at a family wildlife fun day for Bucks County Museum. I used a video microscope to show off insect (plus spider, centipede etc.) specimens (alive and dead), plus some quizzes and games.

Most people, and nearly all the kids, were fascinated by the insects under the microscope, but the quiz produced a range of responses. I asked people to sort a selection of insect photos into three categories: good to have in a garden (“friends”), bad to have in a garden (“foes”), or not sure/neither good nor bad. The photos included a range of species, from Garden Snail and Large White butterfly caterpillars to hoverfly and lacewing, bees and wasps, etc. I reckoned that the snail and caterpillars could reasonably be classed as “foes”, but the others were neutral or good. Perhaps unsurprisingly many people (adults and children) tended to put more into the “foes” category. Wasp, ant, and often the bees as well, went straight into “foes”, presumably as people couldn’t get past the fact that they can sting (if you annoy them). And not at all surprisingly the lacewing and hoverfly larvae (see photo) went straight into “foes” on the grounds that people didn’t know what they were and therefore assumed they must be bad.

An answer sheet was provided with some information about what the photographed insects actually did for a living, and this seemed to achieve its task of giving people a little more insight into the benefits of having insects around. But still couldn’t persuade everyone that wasps were a good thing. One adult demanded to know what was the “purpose” of wasps, what good did they do, with the implication that things didn’t really have a right to exist if they didn’t benefit humans. However, she did eventually agree with me that perhaps other creatures had a right to live on their own terms.