Comeback for rare Essex moth

Thursday 30th November 2017

Fisher's Estuarine Moth

Surveys at Essex Wildlife Trust’s Abbotts Hall Farm show initial success for the moth that only calls Essex home.

The Fisher's Estuarine moth is limited in distribution by the presence of the caterpillar's sole food plant, Sea Hog's Fennel, which itself is one of the rarest coastal plants in Britain.

The stronghold for the moth and its food plant remains at our Skipper's Island nature reserve in the Walton Backwaters, however, with fears of flooding and coastal erosion due to sea level rise, new measures had to be taken to create suitable habitat elsewhere.

Abbotts Hall Farm was chosen as a trial site for examining different methods of establishing Sea Hog’s Fennel at sites not at immediate risk of flooding. Subsequently, Sea Hog’s Fennel has been introduced at 27 sites across Essex, with more than 38,000 Sea Hog’s Fennel planted.

In March 2010, under a licence from Natural England, batches of eggs were collected from Skipper’s Island. These were overwintered at Colchester Zoo as part of their breeding programme before being introduced onto Abbotts Hall Farm.

Seven years later and surveys have seen the number of Fisher’s Estuarine moth adults rise steadily, with 30 adults recorded across two surveys this Autumn, compared to just three individuals recorded across three surveys in 2010.

Creating areas of Sea Hog's Fennel was a vital step and now we've seen it is possible for the moth to successfully establish in new locations. With continued collaborative efforts, the outlook for the Fisher's Estuarine moth looks much brighter.

Sea Hog's Fennel at Abbotts Hall Farm

Tagged with: Species, Conservation