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Holtspur Bottom Butterfly Reserve

The Striped Lychnis moth

Striped Lychnis moth

Striped Lychnis (Shargacucullia lychnitis) moth. (Photo copyright Peter Hall)

This nationally scarce moth was highlighted as a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. It can be found on chalk grassland (like we have here at Holtspur Bottom) and on roadside verges. In the UK, it now only occurs in parts of West Sussex, Hampshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. It is thought the population is fluctuating, but we have insufficient data to be sure whether its population is currently stable, increasing or declining.

Its caterpillars rely almost exclusively on the Dark Mullein (Verbascum nigrum) plant. It is thought that decreasing numbers of its caterpillar food plant and habitat loss may be contributing to its decline. A "tidier" countryside is one problem; for example inappropriate roadside management (e.g. the timing of cutting verges by Councils), which removes Dark Mullein plants before the caterpillars have had time to pupate.

Striped Lychnis moth caterpillarsDark Mullein flower spike

The populations of Striped Lychnis were surveyed in Buckinghamshire in 2005 and 2010, and these reports are available online.

We do still have Striped Lychnis breeding at Holtspur Bottom, although in a count during July 2015 we only found 34 caterpillars (in 2014 we found 36), and counted a total of just 42 Dark Mullein plants, which isn't enough to maintain a healthy population in the longer term. In order to try to boost the population of this moth locally, we are in the process of increasing the numbers of Dark Mullein plants both on our Reserve at Holtspur Bottom, and in the surrounding areas.

Any help you could give us in trying to prevent the further decline of this scarce moth would be greatly appreciated, whether by growing some plants for us to use at Holtspur Bottom, helping at one of our work parties on the reserve, or simply buying some seed and growing Dark Mullein plants in your garden or allotment. Contact us if you think you can help!

 

 

You may also be interested in:
Butterfly Conservation's Striped Lychnis moth Priority Species Factsheet
National Biodiversity Network's Gateway (NBN Gateway) page on Striped Lychnis, including distribution map
Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) report on UK Priority Species: Shargacucullia lychnitis (Striped Lychnis) (technical)

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