Devon Moth Group are flying high after millionth sighting

PUBLISHED: 16:00 08 October 2019

A million moths recorded in Devon. Picture: Devon Moth Group

A million moths recorded in Devon. Picture: Devon Moth Group

Picture: Devon Moth Group

The Devon based moth group are celebrating a milestone achievement.

Devon Moth Group are celebrating the collection of one million moth sightings across the county. Kevin Johns’ garden in Newton Abbot showing his light-trap used to record moths. Picture:  Kevin JohnsDevon Moth Group are celebrating the collection of one million moth sightings across the county. Kevin Johns’ garden in Newton Abbot showing his light-trap used to record moths. Picture: Kevin Johns

One Million moths have been sighted fluttering around Devon, much to the delight of local naturalists.

It has taken more than 20 years for Devon Moth Group to collect, check and record the sightings since its formation in 1997.

The records date back to the mid-19th century and provide a long-term view of the changing wildlife of Devon.

The landmark millionth record was of a V-Pug, a small green moth with a characteristic black v-shaped mark on its wings, which was spotted by Devon Moth Group member Kevin Johns in his Newton Abbot garden.

Devon Moth Group are celebrating the collection of one million moth sightings across the county. The V-Pug moth (Chloroclystis v-ata), which was spotted by Devon Moth Group member Kevin Johns in his Newton Abbot garden. Picture: Phil DeanDevon Moth Group are celebrating the collection of one million moth sightings across the county. The V-Pug moth (Chloroclystis v-ata), which was spotted by Devon Moth Group member Kevin Johns in his Newton Abbot garden. Picture: Phil Dean

Moths, like so much of our wildlife, are in serious decline. For example, populations of the V-Moth (not to be confused with the V-Pug) have crashed by 99 percent in Britain since the 1960s, while the stunning Garden Tiger, once a familiar sight to naturalists, has slumped by 92 percent.

Moth recording plays an important role in conservation as the information gathered shows which species are flourishing and which are in danger.

The sightings then identify parts of Devon where threatened and declining moths still remain so that conservation action can be targeted effectively.

All of the records gathered are shared with the Devon Biodiversity Records Centre, Devon Wildlife Trust and the UK-wide National Moth Recording Scheme.

Around 1,700 moth species have been recorded in Devon, some two-thirds of the total for Britain. These include nationally important species such as the rare Scarce Blackneck, Beautiful Gothic and Devonshire Wainscot.

Gardeners can do a great deal to help moths including planting a variety of moth-friendly flowers for nectar, especially native plants, keeping a few areas rough and untidy, and avoiding the use of insecticides wherever possible.

Kevin Johns, who has been a regular contributor to the Devon moth database, was delighted to learn that his V-Pug record turned out to be the one that passed the million mark.

He said: "It was a brilliant surprise, really quite special". Kevin's garden is close to mature woodland which means that a good number of moths are attracted to his light-trap to be noted and released unharmed. "I'm really pleased with what I get", he added.

Devon Biodiversity Records Centre manager, Ian Egerton, said: "Devon Biodiversity Records Centre is a partnership-led organisation set up to gather information on Devon's species and habitats.

We ensure that biodiversity information feeds into decision-making locally and nationally, and over the last 25 years, our efforts have been underpinned significantly by the county's huge network of volunteer recorders.

Their passion and interest in specific species has created much of the data we now hold, and the level of knowledge and expertise within groups such as the Devon Moth Group, is key to supporting a conservation sector which could not operate without them."

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