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BINGHAM'S RARE INSECTS

The distribution of butterflies and moths around Bingham is split amongst three different habitats - gardens, the hedgerows and roadsides and the Linear Park. Sightings of two quite rare insects have been made on the Linear Park over the recent past. The Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus malvae: family Hesperidae) is the more frequently seen of the two. This butterfly is becoming increasingly infrequently recorded nationally and is certainly locally rare in Nottinghamshire. It is found mainly on woodland ridges and edges and other sheltered, warm sites with shallow soil. These include old railway lines and quarries so the Linear Park makes an ideal habitat in that context. Its main larval food is the Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca), but several other plants may be used, especially other members of the Rose family. These are present on the 'Walk' but perhaps need to be encouraged more. However the caterpillars are known to feed on Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatis) and this is in plentiful supply.

The Grizzled Skipper is one of the smallest of the Skipper species with a wingspan of 2.2.cm and is easily recognised by its whitish blotches. However they are very difficult to follow in flight due to the blurring of their chequered upper side; indeed they almost disappear on take off. Their flight period is from late April or early May to late June or early August and they can achieve altitudes of about 2000 metres.


Grizzled skipper (Photo: Lincolnshire Wild Life Trust)

The national distribution of the Grizzled Skipper is south of the Humber - Mersey line and it is most frequently recorded in South Wales, the Forest of Dean and the Cotswolds, with sightings progressively decreasing northwards. Old railway lines such as the Linear Walk provide one of the best habitats for Grizzled Skippers but often get shaded out after a few years by the natural spread of Ash trees and the butterflies go elsewhere.

 


Four-spotted Moth. Photo by permission of David Green/Butterfly Conservation

The Linear Park is also the home of the Four-spotted Moth (Tyta luctuosa), which is a nationally rare insect. This moth is a grassland species that is typically found on south facing banks on well-drained soils with sparse vegetation and /or bare earth - a description that certainly fits the more south-easterly end of the 'Walk'. The caterpillar feeds on field bindweed, (Convolvulus arvensis) initially preferring the flowers and the seeds, whilst the moth spends much of its active time visiting flowers for nectar and appears to be particularly attracted to the ox-eye daisy. Both these plants can be found along the 'Walk', the former in abundance, so that all in all it seems a perfect habitat for a moth for which, although it was formerly widespread and fairly common in England, the number of recorded sightings has massively declined since the 1930s.

This moth has been recorded in every country in Europe except Ireland and Norway and the range of its distribution extends eastwards to western Siberia and as far south as Morocco. In the pre 1930s it was common in England south of a line from Norfolk to Somerset so that Nottinghamshire was always at the northerly edge of its range. Recently, apart from sightings in Bingham it has only been sighted in eleven counties in the south of England, chiefly on limestone grassland or in the Breckland. The Four-spotted appears in May and June and there is often a second generation in August or September. It is a very active insect on the wing during sunny periods. If the sun is intermittent the moths may still be found resting on flowers until the sun reappears. If the weather is dull and cool or very windy the moths may not fly up from the grass even if disturbed. The reasons for its decline and the loss of colonies include the encroachment of shading trees and other vegetation on the habitat and breeding grounds, together with the intensification of agricultural methods over time. Because of the significant decline in distribution in this country this moth has a Great Britain classification as Vulnerable and is one of fifty-three moths listed as a priority for attention in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, (BAP). Special management actions are being recommended nationally to attempt to halt this decline and to restore its numbers. The main objective of this, of course, is to ensure, wherever possible, that occupied and nearby potential habitats are appropriately managed.


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