Cornish BAP moths
A review of the occurrence of Cornish species outlined in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP).
The moths have been described in the vernacular form being all macro-moths with well known English names. The inclusion of the number is according to J. D. Bradley's Checklist of Lepidoptera Recorded from the British Isles 2nd Edition (revised).
The moth was last seen on 26/6/87 at Pensilva. Also found at Clitters Wood (1/6/77), Gunoak Wood 8/6/80 and Greenscombe Wood (14/6/80). In the South West, the nominate ssp. Hastata, is found in birch woodland and may fly in the canopy during the day, thus escaping detection.
The moth is found in widespread localities along both the North and South coasts of Cornwall, wherever the food-plant, thrift (Armeria maritima), occurs. The South West is the UK's stronghold for this species otherwise found only in Pembrokeshire, Cardiganshire and the Isle of Man.
Found at several places including Saltash, Whitsand Bay, Millook area, Tregantle and Sheviock between 1861 and 1991 and is associated with limestone and chalk substratum. Recent records from the East of the county are all probably vagrants (Spalding, A., pers. comm.).
Not as the name implies, common! The moth was recorded twice in Cornwall, at Rosewarne (19/7/69) and at St. Columb Minor in 1977. The ecology of this moth is not fully understood which adds to the lack of understanding of its decline nationally.
This moth is common in scattered localities throughout Cornwall. It is found in mature woodland and woodland edges but in Cornwall this moth is more often associated with bracken scrub in moor-land areas such as Bodmin Moor also willow scrub on Goss Moor and heath with bracken such as Breney Common. Food-plants include cock's-foot, wood-rush, wood meadow-grass and other grasses.
No records since 12/9/59 at Bodinnick. This moth is similar to the Lesser Yellow Underwing (N.comes) but has a black apical mark similar to that found on the Large Yellow Underwing (N. pronuba). Keep a look-out for this as this moth maybe overlooked.
Not found in Cornwall but a reference by Dr. E. Barton White to the late Paul Siddons suggested that the Marsh Moth was found in Cornwall. Possible localities include the large reed bed inland from Harlyn Bay or the marshy area near Constantine. (Smith, F.N.H., pers. comm.).
This moth was found in the Bodinnick area in the 1950's and early 1960's by the late Col. H. G. Rossel and was last seen in Cornwall by A. Spalding at Trebrownbridge, Seaton Valley, S. E. Cornwall on the 4/5/83 (Smith, F. N. H., Supplement to the Moths & Butterflies of Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly - corrigenda p.29). No definite records nationally since 1994 in Wales. This moth is one of the target
This moth was referred to by Col. H. G. Rossel at Bodinnick on the 2/8/61 as, 'The mysterious singletons of species that really have no business here.' This note was taken from his annotated copy of Richard South's book and dated 2nd August. The specimen has not been found in the Rossel collection.
This species is not only scarce in Britain but also throughout Europe. The sites on the North Coast of Devon and Cornwall as well as those in the Porlock area and Culborne Woods, Somerset therefore take on greater significance. The caterpillar's food-plant is Wood Vetch (Vicia sylvatica), growing on or near rock slippages. There is no evidence of the larvae in these areas feeding on the food-plant in cliff-top woodland. Loss of habitat due to further rock slippages and ranker vegetation invasion is always a possibility.
The moth has been found at Marsland Mouth and previously from Dizzard. In Devon, from Babbacombe Mouth, Foreland Point, Hartland Point and Portledge and still occurs at the two well-known sites of Buck's Mills and Hartland. The nature of the rock slippages and loose shale that accompanies the sites in question can be very dangerous. Slipping and cutting myself on the loose scree on one occasion, spoilt what would have been an enjoyable evening!
For some unknown reason, this moth is only to be found in a well established extremely restricted area within an extensive woodland complex in the Looe Valley. Why it does not occur in similar habitats, as it once appears to have done, is a mystery. Perhaps, as believed, the wooded areas that look promising are not available to the general public. Privately owned, they have not been available for survey. Maybe the moth, more plentiful in the past, has simply declined to the point of occurring only at this single site.
This moth can, and has been confused with the darker and larger Mullein (C. verbasci). There is no evidence of this moth in Cornwall despite some records to the contrary. The specimens concerned, upon genitalia examination, turned out to be verbasci. If you believe you have one from Cornwall, genitalia examination is advised.
This moth has been found at Wheal Rose on the 12/10/53 and at Bodinnick on the 25/10/57. The latest record was from St. Austell on the 6/3/85. This moth is the other target species for National Moth Night 2003.
This is another moth that is met with quite regularly from a number of localities especially in damp woodland. The moth is probably under recorded due to its size and similarity to others in the genus Schrankia. The larval food-plant is unknown although in captivity it feeds on a wide variety of food-stuffs such as, lettuce, flowers of thyme and heath, sliced runner beans. It has been suggested that the larvae may feed on leaf-litter and detritus. It seems not many of us crawl around on all fours with a hand lens looking for this caterpillar, or if we do, it is very cryptic indeed!
The moth was last recorded at Landulph on the 17/8/88 and also recorded from the Mevagissey area during 1985. There have also been records from Marsland Reserve (CWT/DWT) in 1981/86. This species is threatened by loss of Elm due to Dutch elm disease infecting maturing trees.
With special thanks to Dr. Frank Smith and Adrian Spalding for help in the compilation of this article.
Assistant County Recorder
Smith, F. H. N., 1997. The Moths and Butterflies of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Gem Publishing Company. Smith, F. H. N., 2002. A Supplement to the Moths and Butterflies of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Gem Publishing Company. Spalding, A, & Bourn, N., 2000. Butterfly Conservation - Regional Action Plan South West England. (Cornwall, Devon & Somerset).The British Butterfly Conservation Society Limited.