Threatened moth brought back from the brink of extinction - Butterfly Conservation

The Barberry Carpet moth, a threatened species in Britain, is being saved from a worrying decline in Dorset, Wiltshire, and Gloucestershire.

As part of a pioneering conservation project called Back from the Brink (funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund) wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation worked with an array of partners between July 2017 to Feb 2021 to boost the habitat for this specialist moth where small colonies remain in Gloucestershire, Dorset and Wiltshire.  The key to success has been the growth and planting of over 4,000 Barberry shrub plants (the food plant on which the moth depends) across 169 sites, 44 in Dorset and 125 in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.

The plant has become less common in recent decades as it was removed from hedgerows on a grand scale when it was discovered that it could act as an alternate host for a species of stem rust (a disease affecting cereal crops). The last outbreak of this rust in the UK was in the 1950s and there has been considerable work by Butterfly Conservation and independent ecologists to try and reverse the resulting decline in the Barberry Carpet moth.

As well as increasing the availability of the foodplant, planting new Barberry plants has also created new ‘insect corridors’, linking colonies together and enabling the moth to spread into new areas instead of remaining in isolated spots.

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