Multiple moth firsts for the Borders area

Butterfly Conservation's East Scotland organiser Barry Prater
Butterfly Conservation's East Scotland organiser Barry Prater

“It’s been a remarkable year for discoveries of both butterflies and moths across the Borders,” according to Butterfly Conservation East Scotland’s organiser Barry Prater.

Moths, especially, have been the headliners locally over the summer, he added.

Beech-green Carpet by Teyl de Bordes

Beech-green Carpet by Teyl de Bordes

Mr Prater wrote in the butterfly charity’s local newsletter: “Perhaps the most amazing find of the year was 65 Northern Darts which came to light traps in the Peeblesshire hills in July.

“This is a moth associated with high hills and is known almost exclusively from the mountains of Aberdeenshire. There are no previous Borders records.”

He also suggests: “As the number of active moth recorders across the Borders gradually grows, so do findings of scarce or unexpected species. Support from expert lepidopterists (especially Roy Leverton) has boosted people’s skills and confidence.”

The Thyme Pug was found near the Cramalt Burn in Peeblesshire.

Clouded Magpie by Philip Hutton

Clouded Magpie by Philip Hutton

Mr Prater said: “Nationally this is a very scarce moth with just a handful of Scottish records.”

A Pimpinel Pug was found in a light trap on the Berwickshire coast in early July, followed by four more in another nearby site.

“This is an extraordinary find as this species is not known north of Yorkshire,” said Mr Prater.

But he said the Pugs could have been more widespread than previously thought and suggested: “Identification problems may have led to their being overlooked in the past.”

The first Borders record of the Small Engrailed was light-trapped at Paxton House by Mr Prater in late May.

And the Scallop Shell was rediscovered in June at Gordon Moss, the last one in the Borders having been seen in the same place in 1955.

A Gem was found in a Selkirk light trap in early August, of which Mr Prater said: “The date suggests it might have resulted from local breeding, an uncommon occurrence as this moth is known primarily as a scarce migrant, which is unable to overwinter here.”

Four Beech-green Carpet moths were found in hills above the Megget Reservoir in late July.

Mr Prater notes: “The previous record of this very scarce moth was in 1978, also in Peeblesshire.”

The Clouded Magpie was spotted in Newcastleton in June, and is just the third Borders record of the species, which is only thinly scattered in south west Scotland. And the first accepted Borders record of the Smoky Wave was noted in early July.

Mr Prater told The Southern: “Aside from the interest and excitement of making these discoveries, the survey work forms part of a large and important study of the UK’s moths.

“Back in 2010, Butterfly Conservation published a moths atlas with provisional distribution maps for all the larger species. This acted as a spur for the moth-recording community and there has been a real upsurge in survey work in recent years.

“The plan now is for a definitive moths atlas to be published in 2018, again by Butterfly Conservation, and so much of the current recording of moths is aimed at ensuring this atlas is as accurate and complete as possible.

“Analysis of the atlas data will lead to new and better understanding of where our moths are, how their distributions and range are evolving – perhaps partly as a result of climate change – and where conservation actions should be directed.

“Although moths are frequently overlooked alongside their butterfly cousins, their much greater numbers and widespread presence make them arguably a much more significant component of our native biodiversity. As well as acting as plant pollinators, they are very important parts of the food chain for birds, many of which feed their young on caterpillars, and for bats, who prey on the flying adults.”

Smoky Wave by Philip Hutton

Smoky Wave by Philip Hutton