Continuing a month of postings on species extinct in Ireland since the coming of humans, the first insect of this series and a moth last found in Clonmel – the barberry carpet moth. As a Clonmel resident this does give me a slight frisson…and brings home how close to home this biodiversity loss has been.
From Ireland Red List No. 9, Macro-moths
70.124 Barberry Carpet Pareulype berberata
The foodplant of this species is Barberry Berberis vulgaris, which has a very scattered distribution in Ireland. Barberry is a host of Wheat Rust Puccinia graminis and so was widely removed from hedges in the past to control this disease. This caused a huge decline of the moth in Britain but whether this caused extinction in Ireland is unknown. It was last recorded circa 1946 near Clonmel Co Tipperary. This has been mapped in grid square S22 although the precise locality is not known. In Britain it is double-brooded between May and August. The larvae are mainly found on mature Barberry bushes in hedges and edges of woods that are trimmed in autumn. It has the ability to utilise exotic species of Barberry as the foodplant.
In the UK, the Back from the Brink project is trying to help:
What is a Barberry Carpet Moth?
This poor moth is a victim of collateral damage. Its caterpillars feed on Barberry, a shrub of hedgerows and woodland edge. This was a host for wheat rust fungus, so almost eradicated to protect wheat crops in the 1970s. Rust-resistant wheat varieties have solved this problem, but almost too late for the Barberry Carpet Moth. Now there are just eleven populations, scattered across southern and eastern England.
Why are they in trouble?
The barberry plant is now scarce, following the eradication efforts on farmland. It’s not clear if Barberry is native, but it has been long established in the wild in the UK, and is of course of great importance to this rare, native moth. Until the plant’s populations recover, the moth’s populations are vulnerable.
How we’ll help the Barberry Carpet Moth
This Back from the Brink project is working with landowners in the areas where the moth is found (Berkshire, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire). We want to increase the moth’s habitat by planting at least 500 new Barberry plants, and by providing free land management advice. Volunteers can help the project by getting involved in surveys for the moth and for its food plant. We’ll also work with them to grow on and plant Barberry plants, and to carry out scrub and hedgerow management.
We’ll identify potential future introduction sites for the moths, and make sure stands of barberry are present for them. All moth sites will be surveyed every year, to ensure that any problems are identified and resolved. We’ll also run public events to introduce the moth to people, and explain its importance.
What we’re aiming for
By the end of the project, we aim to have made the existing Barberry Carpet Moth populations more secure, and hope to have established new ones. We will also have produced a leaflet for landowners and the public, to ensure its needs are more widely understood and interest is heightened.
I wonder was the last sighting of the Burberry Carpet Moth made by Dr H Murray. He lived on the Mountain Rd just around the corner from the Loretto Convent. His collection is now held by Trinity College.
9th September 2015
The collection of Dr Henry Murray, a Trinity alumnus, is among the most important collections held in the Zoological Museum. He was was a GP in Clonmel in the 1920s, and a keen entomologist. Dr Martyn Linnie, Zoological Museum Curator explained that “Dr Murray’s collection was expertly assembled, and it is one of the most important we hold, often being used by academics for reference.”
Brian thank you for this comment. I had not heard of Dr Murray and would be very interested to find out more. I will look into the collection in Trinity if I get a chance!
Thank you again for your comment.
I note three specimens of A. berberata one confirmed ex. Clonmel. Does that make sense?
Dr Martyn Linnie,
Curator of the Zoological Museum,
Discipline of Zoology, Zoology Building, Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland.
Tel: +353 1 896 1679 Email: email@example.com
Brian thank you for these comments and for contacting Dr Linnie. I am hoping to maybe write a longer post on these if that is OK?
Seamus, that’s fine. I look forward to your future post. Great to highlight Dr Henry Murray and the Clonmel connection. Best wishes, Brian
Seamus, I have asked TCD if this moth is in the Murray Collection. they are looking into it and will let me know. I remember Dr Murray very well, he died in 1955. He was to be seen at night outside his house, on top of a ladder propped against a lamp post, waving his net. Best wishes