Somerset Wildlife Trust

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Liquorice-Loving Moth Needs Your Help

 8th Jan 2016

Liquorice Piercer Moth credit Oliver WadsworthButterfly Conservation (BC) is calling on wildlife enthusiasts around Somerset’s Polden Hills to help stop the decline of a beautiful moth by planting Wild Liquorice seeds on a nature reserve.

The rare Liquorice Piercer micro-moth, Grapholita pallifrontana, is only found on two sites in the county. The moth is blackish brown in colour with pale yellow streaks across its wings and is named for its caterpillar’s habit of piercing the pods of Wild Liquorice, its only foodplant.

BC is hoping that planting more Wild Liquorice in Somerset may help to boost the Liquorice Piercer’s local population.

Wildlife lovers are being invited to attend a seed planting session on Tuesday 12 January.

BC’s Conservation Officer, Rachel Jones said: “Thanks to Biffa Award, we have been given funding to carry our this work and have teamed up with the Somerset Wildlife Trust (SWT) to deliver the project on their New Hill nature reserve.

“Everyone is welcome at this free event and we’ll be meeting from 10.30am to begin planting the seeds. If we want to keep this pretty moth in Somerset, it’s vital we do this as the caterpillar’s foodplant has declined.

“It’s normally found on rough grassland, tracks or road verges, but many of these areas are either cut back too severely or left to overgrow. SWT’s New Hill reserve will be a good location as their staff and volunteers can ensure the plants are well looked after.”

Mark Green, SWT’s South Somerset Reserves Manager, said: “We are really pleased to be part of this project and are confident that the sensitive land management undertaken by Somerset Wildlife Trust’s on its New Hill reserve will benefit Wild Liquorice and its associated micro-moth.”

BC is also asking local walkers who spot any Wild Liquorice in other locations to let them know about it.

Rachel added: “The best chance we have of understanding more about the distribution of this moth and to possibly discover new colonies is to find areas with the foodplant. So whether you can join us at our seeding event or help us find the foodplant during the spring and summer, these are great opportunities to make a real contribution to the conservation and understanding of a very rare moth.”

Wild Liquorice is a member of the pea family. It is a sprawling plant that is often quite large and has kinked stems. The plant’s flowers are creamy white or slightly green and have the typical five-petalled pea or vetch-type flower and are most visible between June and August.

Sightings of the Liquorice Piercer moth tend to be connected with the plant itself, as between May and July the male is often seen flying around its foodplant.

Training on the identification of Wild Liquorice will be provided. For more information on this, the event or to report any sightings of the plant, contact Rachel Jones by emailing or calling her on 01929 406018.