Additional colony of rare moth found in Kent


A new colony of the rare and spectacular White-spotted Sable moth has been found near Canterbury in Kent, according to Butterfly Conservation (BC).

The exciting discovery was made by BC staff and volunteers during a survey of Clowes Wood during summer 2023.

The team was searching for the moth's caterpillars in the woodland, which is owned by Forestry England, after extensive woodland management had enabled an important native plant, Goldenrod, to thrive. This is the sole foodplant of the species and needs plenty of natural light to grow.

Rebecca Levey, Kent's Magnificent Moths Conservation Officer at Butterfly Conservation, said: "As part of the Kent's Magnificent Moths project, we have been working to protect and increase two populations of this rare moth in Kent, including one at Blean Woods NNR, which is where we think the moths have travelled from.

"This is a really exciting discovery as it shows that the moth is able to travel much further than we first thought and can colonise new habitats as they are created. It gives us great hope for the recovery of White-spotted Sable and for many other species facing extreme decline."

White-spotted Sable is now very scarce and localised in Britain (Bob Eade).

The moth is now only found in some areas of Scotland, Wales, Lancashire and Kent, with other very small populations potentially clinging on in Surrey and Sussex. Loss of habitat has caused the moth to become nationally scarce, with it becoming locally extinct in some areas, making the discovery of a new breeding population all the more important for its survival.

Kate Harris at Forestry England said. "For 20 years we have been managing woodland at Clowes to encourage the dispersion of the rare Heath Fritillary butterfly by widening rides and creating short-rotation open space.

"We are thrilled to see that this work is helping to support other species such as White-spotted Sable. It shows the importance that careful woodland management can have for the UK's declining wildlife."

White-spotted Sable is one of approximately 250 day-flying moths out of 2,500 species of moth in the UK. However, despite its striking appearance, it is only the size of a fingernail.

Butterfly Conservation is asking people to keep their eyes peeled when in woodland where Goldenrod grows between May and June and report any sightings of the moth to the National Moth Recording Scheme or using the iRecord app.