Securing the future of a rare moth

Close view of  Copt Hall Salt Marshes, Essex
Published : 29 Mar 2016

Batches of eggs from one of Britain's rarest moths are to be introduced at Copt Hall thanks to Colchester Zoo's breeding programme.

The Fisher's Estuarine Moth is one of Britain's rarest moths. Following habitat creation for this moth at Copt Hall and Colchester Zoo's native breeding programme, we're hoping to help secure its future.

The eggs initially originated from Skipper’s Island Nature Reserve, an Essex Wildlife Trust site, which holds the core population of the moth. Thanks to a licence from Natural England, eggs were collected from the reserve for this breeding programme, which hopes to introduce the species to newly created habiat sites around Essex.

The 2015 breeding programme was successful, with emergent females laying 14 batches of eggs. With each batch containing over 100 eggs, there are plenty of eggs to release onto Copt Hall. We're hopeful that the caterpillars should emerge from these eggs in mid to late April.

Why Copt Hall Marshes?

Well, this is one of 27 new sites planted with the caterpillar’s sole food, Hog’s Fennel. 

The habitat at Copt Hall is now ideal for the introduction of the moth, showing how well the habitat has established since our extensive efforts and support from Natural England’s Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agri-environment scheme.
 
The main areas of the moth’s habitat are very vulnerable to flooding and it is likely that the incidences of flooding will become more frequent and even more severe in the future as a consequence of climate change. 
 
To secure the long-term future of Fisher’s Estuarine Moth in the UK it has been necessary to create a landscape-scale network of sites on higher ground – away from the threat of flooding. To date, the creation of habitat for this species has involved planting over 38,000 Hog’s Fennel plants. 
 
This project is a fine example of putting scientific knowledge into practice to conserve a threatened species. We hope that the outlook for the Fisher’s Estuarine Moth will be more favourable into the future.
" "We’ve been looking forward to this day since we started planting the hog’s fennel back in 2010 and are very pleased to finally be introducing these eggs. It’s an important step forward, working in partnership on a landscape scale to help safeguard this unique Essex species for the future.""
- Stuart Banks, Ranger