Forty-three of our 578 species of Irish macro-moths are threatened with extinction, whilst the conservation status of Ireland’s micro-moths is unknown. Evidence from elsewhere however suggests that many species are in decline. Habitat destruction and degradation, driven by land-use change and chemical pollution is one of the leading cause of decline.
MothsIreland manages a very large database of sightings of all moth species that occur in Ireland. This provides very detailed information on what species occur in Ireland and how they are distributed. The intention of this project was to test the feasibility of farmers helping to monitor moths that occur on their farms, to complement the huge amount of moth trapping being done by the MothsIreland network.
The Farmer Moth Monitoring Project was developed from the existing Protecting Farmland Pollinators EIP Project. Protecting Farmland Pollinators is a five-year EIP that has identified small actions that farmers can take that allow biodiversity to coexist within a productive farming system. By working closely with a group of 40 farmers, management practices that beneﬁt bees on Irish farmland were identified, and a whole farm pollinator scorecard was developed.
The project has four key aims:
- To test the usability of a non-lethal moth (pollinator) monitoring technique across farmland of different types in the Irish context.
- To test the time allocation, cost effectiveness and farmer buy in of this technique.
- Based on the outcome, to develop a simple farm moth monitoring system that is suitable for wide roll out, and that could be included in the national pollinator monitoring scheme in line with EU recommendations.
- To test whether the number of specimens vary according to farm type (beef, dairy, mixed and tillage) and land use within the farm (land managed for production where no intervention for the benefit of biodiversity has occurred versus land where intervention for the benefit of biodiversity has occurred).
Using the information on the usability of the farmer moth monitoring scheme will enable farmers to be able to monitor their farms for pollinators in a measurable way that does not impact on productivity.
On each farm, one moth trap was placed in the middle of a field whilst another was placed alongside a nearby hedgerow. It was found that the traps situated by the hedgerow tended to attract a wider variety of moth species, and in greater numbers. This was not terribly surprising, as hedgerows often contain a rich variety of nectar sources for adult moths as well as foodplants for the caterpillars. They also make effective hiding places during the day for moths to avoid predation by birds, mammals and other insects.
The results so far have demonstrated that a wide variety of moths may be found on Irish farms. Species such as the Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba), Common Rustic (Mesapamea secalis agg.) and the Heart-and-Dart (Agrotis exclamationis) commonly occurred across many of the farms, whilst other such as the Heath Rustic (Xestia agathina) and Coxcomb Prominent (Ptilodon capucina) only appeared once.
Diversity and abundance of species
A list of the top 10 most common species can be seen below:
- Large Yellow Underwing
- Common Rustic
- Setaceous Hebrew Character
- Heart and Dart
- Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing
- Rosy Rustic
- Small Square-spot
- The Uncertain
- White Ermine
- Dark Arches
Moths: Six species common on farmland. These moths were selected based on the data generated from the Project.
PDF: Moth Farmland Flyer A5 PRINT
Farmer Moth Monitoring Final Report.
Top 5 tips for managing your area for moths
Moths can be encouraged by making small-scale changes. Here is a list of the top 10 actions you can do to make your area more moth-friendly:
- Try and plant or encourage the growth of native deciduous trees. Many moth caterpillars use species such as Oak, Hazel, Willow, Alder and Birch. These trees are also great for attracting wildlife generally.
- Planting flowers which have evolved to produce nectar at night will help attract many moth species. Plants like Honeysuckle, Large-flowered Evening Primrose and Red or White Campion are good native plant choices.
- Aside from planting, letting any existing flowers grow is probably the best method. Native flowers such as Dandelion, Common Knapweed, Cuckooflower, Devil’s-bit Scabious and Red Clover often grow in verges and lawns, so not mowing as frequently gives them a chance to bloom and in turn provide moths with much-needed nectar.
- Encouraging the growth of native shrubs can be a great way of attracting a wide variety of moths. Blackthorn, Hawthorn, Crab Apple and Dog Rose are important caterpillar foodplants for a variety of moth species.
- Sensitive management of hedgerows and verges will allow these plants listed above to thrive. Try and allow them to finish flowering before cutting and avoid cutting back too hard. Caterpillars often feed on the current or previous years’ growth.
The Farmer Moth Monitoring Project is an EIP (European Innovation Partnership) project being administered by the National Biodiversity Data Centre. The Project is funded by the EU Recovery Instrument Funding under the Rural Development Programme 2014-2022.
Is tionscadal EIP (Comhpháirtíocht Nuálaíochta Eorpach) é an Farmer Moth Monitoring atá á riaradh ag National Biodiversity Data Centre. Tá an Tionscadal maoinithe ag Maoiniú Ionstraim Téarnaimh an AE faoin gClár um Fhorbairt Tuaithe 2014-2022.