[Latticed heath moth]

[Latticed heath moth]

Photo credit: Bob Coyle

Written by Charlotte Mackenzie

A rare sight

Visitors from afar, each [    ] unique.
Perfect brushstrokes across miniature canvas
Hidden amongst the long grass of fields
darting through dales and wooded groves,
of balmy summer evenings into the dwindling light
Juxtaposition of fragility and hardiness in one aerodynamic body
Conduit into nature, symbol of long-gone childhood memories,
British summertime and days gone by
Once found in swarms now a rare sight, embalmed on the pages of Castle Russell
Tiny beauty with paper-thin wings, will you remain in our skies?
An exotic gem, natural symmetry of caramel veins patterned across a perfect wingspan
Chocolate brown migrants, visitors from afar.

The latticed heath moth – a lockdown miracle

Living in Bicester, a small town near Oxford and famed for its outlet shopping village, I often enjoy weekend walks out and about on the edge of the Chilterns with my mum and our family-dog Luna, the over-enthusiastic German Shepherd. Although I must confess, I have never been much of a moth-spotter. Lockdown has seen me begin to embrace a slower pace of life, with early morning runs providing a chance to look upwards and enjoy the changing seasons, while eagerly trying to spot any signs of the Latticed Heath Moth.

I found it hard to engage with my moth, in particular during a time when trips outside felt decadent and prohibited for quite a few weeks. So, I was lucky to come across Patrick Barkham, an enthusiast who writes for the Guardian on a variety of topics. Although I didn’t manage to speak to Patrick directly, his wealth of articles mention years gone by in the Chilterns. He even cites Lord Rothschild mentioning ‘hundreds of Purple Hairstreaks from the trees’ – which I assume he recorded during a trip to his weekend pile Waddesdon Manor, which is only down the road. I have also enjoyed delving into the works of keen collecter SG Castle Russell, who earnt a mention in my centena.

It was not surprising for me to learn that wet weather and climate change has greatly affected the numbers of moths and butterflies that we see across the British Isles, with southern England often home to greater numbers. Industrial agriculture and the destruction of some 97% of the UK’s natural grassland and meadows has also seen a marked decline in the numbers still in the wild. Meanwhile, keen gardeners who have replaced woodlands with conifers are also to blame.

I have noticed increased numbers of moths during the incredible warm weather in the second half of May, and as woodland has had a chance to overgrow and breathe again due to less traffic on our roads. It is also comforting to see that, after the past two warm summers, 2019 was something of a boom year for the numbers of butterflies across the UK.

As lockdown lifts, I hope people will keep choosing alternative transport and letting wildlife breathe longer, so we continue to see more moths in our gardens and parklands.

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