An extremely rare moth has been discovered in Wales for the first time, Butterfly Conservation (BC) can reveal.
The wildlife charity received two separate records of the Barred Tooth-striped moth at a woodland site in Monmouthshire earlier this month.
The brown-coloured moth is nationally scarce in the UK and is usually seen on the wing between mid-March and late April.
The Barred Tooth-striped prefers open woodland or open scrub, especially on chalk downs. It can also be found in hedgerows, rides and along the edges of woods.
BC’s Conservation Officer for Wales, George Tordoff, said: “At first glance the moth might look unremarkable, but it’s actually very distinctive thanks to the dark brown band that can be seen across the middle of the upper wings.
“To find the Barred Tooth-striped at a new site is really encouraging, because not only is this a first for Wales, but the moth is declining in England. The fact that two have been caught on different nights also suggests that the moth is likely to be breeding in the wood it was found in.”
Nick Felstead is a member of BC’s South Wales Branch and made the exciting discovery two weeks ago.
He said: “I remember it being a horrible night - very windy and wet – so I didn’t expect to find much and when I first saw the moth, I didn’t recognise it. So I took a photo and when I got home I started looking up what species it could be. Alarm bells went off when I realised what it was and when BC confirmed it, I just couldn’t believe it!”
The caterpillar foodplant, Wild Privet, grows in the area where the moths were caught.
BC Wales is working closely with Natural Resources Wales (NRW), who manages the woodland, to ensure that the Wild Privet is protected during forestry management work.
Rosalind Watkins, a forestry officer for NRW, said: “This is a great discovery for both Butterfly Conservation and Natural Resources Wales.
“Natural resource management is a key element of our work and to see a rare species beginning to flourish like this shows that our approach is working. Hopefully our continued work with Butterfly Conservation will result in increasing numbers of other rare species.”
BC’s George Tordoff added: “We’ll be keeping a close eye on this area to try and find out a bit more about the Barred Tooth-striped population there, as we don’t know if it is a recent arrival or if it has been breeding in this woodland for years without anyone noticing.
“Not many people trap moths away from their gardens in early spring, so species which fly at this time of year are often overlooked. Congratulations must go to Nick Felstead who caught the moths – it’s thanks to his perseverance that this discovery was made.”