Shining a light on the Moths of Park Wood

20 September 2021 | Posted in James Duncan , Insects
Shining a light on the Moths of Park Wood
Dusky Thorn © James Duncan

By James Duncan

Community Action Officer

Park Wood is a sixty hectare site of ancient semi-natural woodland, lying on the parish boundaries of Hellingly and Hailsham, in the Wealden district of East Sussex. Not only is it the very largest woodland owned by the Environment Agency, it's also one of the largest areas of unfragmented woodland in the Hailsham area. It has an extensive history of coppice management and is designated as part of a Local Wildlife Site (LWS) complex, vitally important for its assemblage of bats, reptiles, amphibians, birds, bryophytes (mosses & liverworts) and one of the UK's most loved mammals, the Hazel Dormouse. It's also designated as an Asset of Community Value, treasured by locals both as a wildlife habitat and place for recreational and leisure use. The vision of the Environment Agency is to further improve the site through creating new and enhancing existing wildlife habitats. 

Park Wood also has an active Friends Group, who look to maintain the precious flora and fauna and safeguard the future of the wood through membership - please see their website here - Friends of Park Wood Hellingly

It is of course paramount to establish both features and species present in the woodland. The assemblage of invertebrates has not been fully surveyed, and as part of this we took to shine a light (or three lights in this case!) on the moths of Park Wood. A little later in the season than ideal, conditions were slightly unfavourable owing to a chilly 10°c overnight temperature with clear skies and a heavy dew. A warm, muggy, cloudy night at 13°c plus, would no doubt have revealed more of Park Wood's nocturnal winged wonders. Final total for the night was 78 moths from 26 species. Lets highlight a few -

Light Emerald - This attractive moth of broadleaved woodland, parks and gardens may often be disturbed from rest when perched underneath leaves during the day Light Emerald © James Duncan

Brindled Green - The delicate patterning and subtle colouration identify this species of mature Oak woodland Brindled Green © Mike Mullis

Brimstone - Like its Lepidopteran relative (the Brimstone Butterfly), this unmistakable moth is also yellow and can be seen regularly flying prior to dusk Brimstone © Mike Mullis

Common Marbled Carpet - This highly variable species needs careful identification owing to its similarity to the closely related Dark Marbled Carpet Common Marbled Carpet © Mike Mullis

Dusky Thorn - Commoner in the south of Britain, this is one of the plainer members of its family, usually found in close proximity to its foodplant, Ash. Though found widely, it has in fact displayed a worrying 98% decline over a 35 year study period Dusky Thorn1 © Mike Mullis

Oak Lutestring - With a 'Local' conservation status, this single-brooded autumnal moth is a species of mature Oak woodland Oak Lutestring © Mike Mullis

Autumnal Rustic - This attractive moth, with a smooth, velvet appearance is a UK Priority Species and has shown a 92% decline in population over a 35 year study period Autumnal Rustic © Mike Mullis

During the period of moth trapping other insects popped up to reveal themselves, including the beautifully iridescent Ground Beetle Carabus problematicus with its purple sheen, a number of Southern Oak Bush-Crickets (a recent UK colonist) and bane of any moth trap, European Hornets. However, Hornets do tend to pose magnificently for photographs...

Hornet © James Duncan

Here's the full moth list as recorded at Park Wood on the 15th/16th September.

1 Autumnal Rustic

2 Brimstone
3 Brindled Green 
4 Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing 
5 Common Marbled Carpet 
6 Dusky Thorn 
7 Engrailed 
8 Flame Shoulder
9 Green Carpet 
10 Large Yellow Underwing 
11 Light Emerald 
12 Oak Lutestring 
13 Pearly Underwing 
14 Setaceous Hebrew Character 
15 Snout 
16 Vine’s Rustic
17 Willow Beauty 
18 Acleris emargana/effractana agg.
19 Agriphila geniculea 
20 Apotomis betuletana 
21 Archips podana (Large Fruit-tree Tortrix) 
22 Blastobasis adustella 
23 Celypha lacunana 
24 Cydia splendana
25 Eudonia truncicolella
26 Euzophera pinguis

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