Birmingham, United Kingdom
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News Article | May 23, 2017

The night garden is brilliantly lit by the full moon of the moth trap’s bulb. Shadows are thrown deep into the drystone walls and the hawthorn branches show bright against the dark fields. Shading my eyes against the UV light, I linger, hoping to see a flicker of wings before shutting the door and leaving the trap to work its magic. Once a week I record which species are drawn to the light, my first year of contributing data to the Garden Moth Scheme. This became a national project in 2007 and the fluctuations it shows are a valuable indicator of environmental change. The colour-coded Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland by Waring, Townsend and Lewington, covers 896 species, illustrated in their natural resting positions. These are the macro moths – there are a further 1,550 or so micro moths, which sometimes makes identification a challenge. There’s a moment of childhood discovery or of treasure hunting in the morning’s revelation. First I scan the wall of the shed that shelters the trap. Moths hide in the crevices of the door, under hinges, in paving cracks, or are camouflaged on the lichened stone wall. In perfect mimicry of a sliver of wood, a red sword-grass , Xylena vetusta, rests amid a litter of twigs. An upland species, this large moth keeps its red-flushed wings tightly rolled around its abdomen, narrowing to a point to resemble a fragment of woodchip. With a head like a shaven pencil, it is only recognisable as an insect when it splays its legs to walk on my hand. Many “moth-ers” have had empty traps due to this spring’s cold winds. In the relative calm of the valley I’ve had gatherings of Hebrew Characters and Clouded Drabs with less frequent Pale Pinions and Lesser Swallow Prominents. Many have evocative names given by early lepidopterists, often drawn from life in the “big house”: ermines, satins, brocades, footmen, wainscots. Some have no common name but are no less special. Small as my little fingernail, with dark markings on a frosted jade background, Acleris literana has only had 31 previous records in Northumberland.

Bates A.J.,University of Birmingham | Sadler J.P.,University of Birmingham | Everett G.,University of Central Lancashire | Grundy D.,Garden Moth Scheme | And 14 more authors.
Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata | Year: 2013

Done well, citizen science projects can gather datasets of a size and scope far larger than would be possible using professional researchers. This study uses data gathered in Britain by the Garden Moth Scheme (GMS). Participants run garden light traps for at least 26 weeks a year and complete garden questionnaires detailing garden habitat and nearby landscape features. We used data exploration and generalised linear modelling (GLM) to investigate whether the data can be used to generate reliable research findings, testing the effect of moth light trap type on moth catch. Robinson traps, then Skinner traps, then Heath traps were found to catch the highest abundance and diversity of moths. Mercury vapour bulbs, then blended light bulbs, then actinic bulbs collected the highest abundance and diversity of moths. The GMS dataset can be used to generate useful and reliable research findings, and can be used in the future to investigate temporal and spatial trends in moth assemblage. Under international law, the use of mercury vapour bulbs will be phased out in coming years, leading to changes in the way moth assemblages are sampled. Information on the relative efficacy of different bulb types will aid the analysis of long-term moth datasets after these changes. © 2013 The Netherlands Entomological Society.

Bates A.J.,University of Birmingham | Sadler J.P.,University of Birmingham | Grundy D.,Garden Moth Scheme | Lowe N.,Garden Moth Scheme | And 12 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Moths are abundant and ubiquitous in vegetated terrestrial environments and are pollinators, important herbivores of wild plants, and food for birds, bats and rodents. In recent years, many once abundant and widespread species have shown sharp declines that have been cited by some as indicative of a widespread insect biodiversity crisis. Likely causes of these declines include agricultural intensification, light pollution, climate change, and urbanization; however, the real underlying cause(s) is still open to conjecture. We used data collected from the citizen science Garden Moth Scheme (GMS) to explore the spatial association between the abundance of 195 widespread British species of moth, and garden habitat and landscape features, to see if spatial habitat and landscape associations varied for species of differing conservation status. We found that associations with habitat and landscape composition were species-specific, but that there were consistent trends in species richness and total moth abundance. Gardens with more diverse and extensive microhabitats were associated with higher species richness and moth abundance; gardens near to the coast were associated with higher richness and moth abundance; and gardens in more urbanized locations were associated with lower species richness and moth abundance. The same trends were also found for species classified as increasing, declining and vulnerable under IUCN (World Conservation Union) criteria. However, vulnerable species were more strongly negatively affected by urbanization than increasing species. Two hypotheses are proposed to explain this observation: (1) that the underlying factors causing declines in vulnerable species (e.g., possibilities include fragmentation, habitat deterioration, agrochemical pollution) across Britain are the same in urban areas, but that these deleterious effects are more intense in urban areas; and/or (2) that urban areas can act as ecological traps for some vulnerable species of moth, the light drawing them in from the surrounding landscape into sub-optimal urban habitats. © 2014 Bates et al.

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