The people of Northamptonshire are being asked to share some Valentine’s Day love for the rare Heart moth this February, by supporting a new project to boost its numbers.

Wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation (BC) has launched the Woodland Wings project to locate and improve habitat for the declining Heart Moth across the region.

The project was made possible thanks to £75,000 of National Lottery funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and donations from BC’s Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire Branch.

The Heart Moth was once widespread across central southern and south-eastern England but is now only found on a small number of sites across the UK, including south Northamptonshire.

Volunteers are needed to help BC with the first stage of the project, which is to map the locations of the county’s mature oak trees, where the Heart Moth could be found.

The moth, which gets its name from the unique heart-shaped markings on its forewings, lays its eggs on the branches of oak trees during the summer.

A pair of Heart Moth's by David GreenBC’s Project Officer, Caroline Temple, said: “We’re asking people to look for mature oak trees in open spaces like parkland, commons, in hedgerows around fields or on woodland ridges or edges. Trees deep within woodlands or packed closely together aren’t suitable for the moth.

“We already know of a few oak tree sites where the moth can be found close to the Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire border, but before we start conservation work, we want to know if the Heart Moth is surviving in other areas around the county too.”

People can find out more about the project and log their oak tree locations by emailing Caroline at @email.

Caroline added: “We’re hoping to find some new sites for this moth, so once we know where all the suitable trees are, we can start putting out moth traps to see if it’s present and we’ll be holding events in the summer so people can actually see the moth and get involved in carrying out surveys and other conservation work.”

Made possible by National Lottery players, Woodland Wings is a three-year project focussing on helping butterflies and moths in the area between Northampton and Milton Keynes, including Salcey Forest, with a specific focus on the Heart Moth, the Wood White butterfly and Black Hairstreak butterfly.

A number of guided walks to see these species and conservation events to help them will be held throughout 2018.