Help of Norfolk public wanted in hunt for moths

We might be more used to trying to keep them away from the clothes in our closets, but the Norfolk public is being asked to help wildlife experts hunt for moths.

People in the county are being asked to help spot three species of moth this summer, as part of a survey into how many of the insects have made Norfolk their home.

The appeal comes from Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service (NBIS) – Norfolk's centre for records about the county's wildlife and geology – and follows similar appeals where the public has helped find glow-worms and fungus.

This time around, the experts want help in investigating cinnabar moth, elephant hawk moth and lappet moth.

Martin Horlock, biodiversity information officer, said: 'We are trying to build up a picture of how these moths are distributed across Norfolk.

'Although we have many moth records on our database, recent sightings of the moths and their caterpillars are very valuable.

'The moths we have chosen are fairly distinctive and can be spotted over the summer months - we hope people will be keen to help us find them.'

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The cinnabar moth (Tyria jacobaeae) has a 35–45mm wingspan, is a brightly coloured moth with crimson hindwings, which flies in the day. The caterpillars can be up to 30mm long, and have a black and orange striped body – a warning to predators that they are poisonous. They feed on ragwort.

The elephant hawk moth (Deilephilia elpenor) is named after its caterpillars, which are up to 70mm long and look a bit like an elephant's trunk. They feed on willowherbs and bedstraws. The adult moth has pink wings and a wingspan of 45–60mm and often turns up in gardens, where it also feeds on fuschia.

The lappet moth (Gastropacha quercifolia) resembles a dried oak leaf when resting. Its caterpillars have lappets – or skirts – along their sides, and feed on shrubs such as hawthorn and blackthorn.

There are over 2,500 species of moth in Britain found in all sorts of habitats, from gardens to sand dunes.

Recent declines in moth numbers threaten many other species such as birds, bats and small mammals which depend on them for food, and they also play an important role in plant pollination.

• You can download a leaflet containing more information about the survey and how to send in your records by visiting www.nbis.org.uk

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