Monitoring moths on the Golden Cap Estate

Since 2015, our specialist volunteer John Newbould, with the help of other local lepidopterists, has been regularly surveying the moth populations on the Golden Cap Estate. These records contribute to the National Moth Recording Scheme, which is gathering data at a national level on the distribution of the larger moth species (macro-moths.)

Why do we monitor moths?

Analysis of moth records from around the UK has shown that the numbers of macro moths have declined significantly in the last 40 years, particularly in southern Britain. Moths, like other insects, play an integral role in our ecosystems; as herbivores, prey and pollinators. Keeping track of their distribution is an essential part of their conservation, and also provides information on the health of our ecosystems more widely.

The changes in abundance and distribution of moths observed in the UK in recent decades mirrors similar patterns in other European countries, and is likely to be due to a range of factors, from habitat loss and changes in land management, to climate change. Understanding and monitoring future changes in the moth community will help us to better plan our habitat management sympathetically for moths and other wildlife.

This year's findings

So far this year, a total of 209 species have been recorded around the estate. These include the brindled beauty, lackey, latticed heath and buff ermine. These are common and widespread moths which have rapidly declined in abundance at a national level by up to 93% in the last 40 years, and are therefore priority species for research. 

Some of the species found on the estate have seen huge increases in abundance nationally in the last 40 years, such as the vestal moth. This migrant species, which overwinters in north Africa and southern Europe, is a regular visitor to the UK in the summer, and has increased in abundance by more than 900% since the 1960s. 

Rare species

During the moth trapping sessions, we also keep an eye out for some of the rarer species. Morris’s wainscot is a red data book species which is found on undercliff habitats by the sea. This extremely localised species is only found along the south coast of Dorset. Regular surveys in these areas will help to establish how this species is doing.

See for yourself

But it's not just about collecting baseline data which will allow us to monitor the moths found here.We're also keen to share our moth trapping findings with visitors. We will regularly update the website with details of our latest wildlife surveys.

As part of a series of Wildlife Wednesday events at Golden Cap this summer, we introduced people to moth trapping, with the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the fantastic and diverse species found. We hope to offer more of these popular events in the near future.

Find out more about the National Moth Recording Scheme