What a beauty: Moth on brink of extinction found flying at Scottish site

A moth on the brink of extinction in Britain has been found flying in the Highlands following breeding efforts to boost its dwindling population.

Due to habitat loss, the dark bordered beauty moth is only found at three locations across Britain, with two in Scotland and one in England.

Last year the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) collected 40 dark bordered beauty moth eggs from the wild and transferred them to a purpose-built facility at Highland Wildlife Park.

From the breeding programme, conservationists released 160 of the dark bordered beauty caterpillars into a specially selected site in the Cairngorms National Park, and now the rare moths have now been seen flying at the site after being discovered in light traps.

It is the first time the moths have been reared in captivity.

The caterpillars were introduced as part of the Rare Invertebrates in the Cairngorms (RIC) partnership.

Dr Helen Taylor, conservation programme manager at RZSS, said it has raised hopes the rare moth’s population can be successfully recovered.

‘Finding these adults is an important and exciting step in our efforts to save dark bordered beauty moths from extinction, but there’s still a long way to go,’ she said. 

‘Along with our other work to protect and restore native species, our charity has made a commitment to help improve the conservation status of dark bordered beauty moths. 

‘We want to see successfully reintroduced, self-sustaining populations at multiple sites to safeguard the future of this stunning, but little-known moth.’

Dark bordered beauty caterpillars in Scotland are reliant on aspen suckers, which require protection from grazing to thrive and expand. 

Suitable wild habitats are fragmented, with large distances between them, so the moths are not currently able to disperse to new sites themselves. 

As part of habitat management efforts, RIC has been undertaking surveys to find new sites of suckering aspen and working with landowners to try and help create better habitat for the moths to be released into.

Read more on Scottish Field’s News pages. 

Plus, don’t miss the September issue of Scottish Field magazine.