Four-spotted Moth - Herts & Middx Butterfly Conservation

Four-spotted moth Tyta luctuosa survey 2018

© Liz Goodyear

Four-spotted moth is a high priority moth in the East Anglian Regional Action Plan, and one of the national strongholds is a small area where Cambridgeshire, Essex and Hertfordshire boundaries meet. The last Hertfordshire record was at Arbury Banks near Ashwell in 2005. We aim to increase this species in Hertfordshire by finding where it is surviving and improving its habitat.

In 2017 Four-spotted was found close to the Hertfordshire border at Heydon (0.5 miles) and Langley Upper Green (1.5 miles). There is a good chance that targeted survey work this summer could put this moth back on the Hertfordshire map. It is a day flying moth that can be found on arable field margins and south-facing banks with thin calcareous soils. The caterpillar feeds on Field Bindweed which is often abundant at good sites and the adults will nectar at a range of flowers including Ox-eye Daisy and Red Clover. The moth will occasionally visit moth traps.

Survey work in Cambridgeshire and Essex has been going on for a number of years, and it is clear that regular ground disturbance is important for this species, and explains why the moth persists along railway corridors, cultivated field margins and steep road banks. The moth has been quick to colonise development sites such as new road schemes, cuttings and reservoir banks in Cambridgeshire and Essex.

We hope to work with landowners and developers to influence new developments such as Solar Farms or road schemes to include banks and features that will benefit the Four-spotted moth.

North Hertfordshire is relatively under-recorded and sightings of all butterfly and moth species will be very welcome. Small Heath and Common Blue are often found at good Four-spotted sites. A brief study of the soil type map has indicated that the moth is associated with certain soil types in Cambridgeshire and Essex and we will target those areas with the same soil type in Hertfordshire.

Survey plans for 2018

Volunteers will be provided with maps to indicate potential survey areas. The moth flies between mid-May and mid-August in two generations. A sunny day is essential and walking through vegetation or with a dog has been shown to be helpful in disturbing the moth. It is normally seen singly, often after an hour spent looking for it, but Colin Plant recorded 100 on a single day in Essex in 2005 so anything is possible.

We will be looking for this moth in two areas:

  1.  Area north of Baldock and east of Royston: Caldecote, Newnham, Bygrave and Ashwell
  2.  Area south of Royston: Reed, Barley, Barkway, Nuthampstead and Anstey

Please register with Sharon Hearle if you are able to help, so you can be provided with target survey maps and kept up-to-date with sightings as the season progresses. There will be survey work in Cambridgeshire and Essex this year as well. Sharon's contact details are:

Telephone land line: 01638 484145
Mobile: 07920 131526

Group survey days will be led by Sharon Hearle, on weekdays beginning Monday 4 June and Monday 11 June. These survey days are totally weather dependent, as a sunny day is essential. If it's raining we will aim for a different day that week. We will meet at Therfield Heath Sports Club car park at 10am and then divide up into groups to survey and share sightings. Please get in touch first to check the event is going ahead

Reproduced with kind permission of Sharon Hearle, of Butterfly Conservation - article in issue 76 of the Herts & Middx branch newsletter pp 18-19

Notes from Butterfly Conservation


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