If you build it, they will come

12 June 2019 | Posted in Graeme Lyons , Woods Mill , Insects
If you build it, they will come
Meadow including Yellow-rattle and Oxeye Daisy © Graeme Lyons

By Graeme Lyons

Senior Ecologist

Around four years ago, we attempted to rejuvenate one of the fields at Woods Mill into something less grass dominated and more meadow-like. This involved getting the right mix of plant species and the right management. The field was dominated by coarse grasses, all except one area that was tightly Rabbit grazed all year round. The species mix we chose was typical for a neutral hay meadow (MG5 in NVC terms) and included Yellow-rattle, Oxeye Daisy, Betony, Bird’s-foot Trefoil and Devil’s-bit Scabious. A variety of treatments were carried out but the area where the ground was really scarified before seeding has been particularly successful. Cowslips have spread in the spring but it’s the Yellow-rattle that has now spread across the whole meadow. The Oxeye Daisy is still sticking close to the original managed area while the Betony is still present but hasn’t took as well as the other plants.
 
A sign that a project like this has become really successful though is when host-specific invertebrates turn up to feed on the their food plants. Today in the meadow I saw a number of Grass Rivulet moths flying freely around the food plant in the daytime. The moth was last recorded here in 1991 and this was almost certainly recorded at night, meaning the moth could have travelled many miles from where it started its life eating Yellow-rattle. This moth feeds only on Yellow-rattle, the seeds in fact, and it is quite common wherever the food plant is plentiful. Therefore we can now say this is the first recorded colony of Grass Rivulets at Woods Mill. As I was trying to photograph the moth, I noticed the larvae of a Burnet moth feeding on the Bird’s-foot Trefoil that was also seeded there. So it won’t be long until we have these black red beauties flying around there too.
 
To make sure that we hold onto our meadow invertebrates as well as our meadow plants, a sympathetic management regime is needed that caters for all. Mowing and grazing are vital for the plants but the timing of these are key, as is leaving a proportion uncut (in a different place) each year.

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Grass Rivulet moth © Graeme Lyons

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