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.
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.