‘You never know what you’re going to get’: Norwich moth-trapper discovers a new species for the UK

The Herb Emerald moth, dscovered for the first time in the UK by Norwich enthusiast Matthew Casey.

The Herb Emerald moth, dscovered for the first time in the UK by Norwich enthusiast Matthew Casey. - Credit: Matthew Casey

A painstaking dedication to catching and studying moths has paid off for a Norfolk lepidopterist who has recorded the UK's first sighting of a Mediterranean species.

Norwich moth enthusiast Matthew Casey.

Norwich moth enthusiast Matthew Casey. - Credit: Archant

Matthew Casey, 42, discovered the bright green moth in his father's garden on the outskirts of Norwich, where he nightly lights up a moth trap to capture, and photograph some of the region's rich diversity of nocturnal life.

The self-employed gardener said he was thrilled to record a national 'first'. As it has never been recorded in the UK before, the species had no English name – so Mr Casey, along with Norfolk moth recorder Jim Wheeler, was given the honour of choosing a name: The Herb Emerald.

The species was thought to have arrived in this country in a consignment of herbs delivered to a garden centre, after a long and unlikely journey from the Mediterranean.

'It is a chance in a million,' said Mr Casey. 'It has probably come over the sea from Sardinia, on a lorry across Europe, and then over the North Sea on another lorry to the garden centre before it finds its way into my garden trap. It has had quite a journey.

'I have been doing this for the best part of six years and, because I moth-trap every single day, I was bound to find something unusual eventually.'

Mr Casey said the moth was identified with the help of fellow lepidopterist David Hipperson – prompting much excitement in the 'mothing' community.

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'I normally go through the trap and there are all these British species, but I knew this one was different because the colour was just so green,' he said. 'I had a crowd of about 20 people came round to the house to have a look at it.

'There has now been a second one found in Gloucestershire, but mine will always be the first.'

Mr Casey said his passion for collecting moth records was driven by the sheer diversity of species, and the ability to gather information which could help their conservation.

'Norfolk is a very good county for moths,' he said. 'I have found 404 macro-moths and 325 micro, but the Norfolk list is something like 600 macro and more than 1,100 micro, so you'll never get the whole lot. That is what drives me to go out and get new species.

'It gives you a buzz every single day. You never know what you're going to get. Everyone is out there to find the rarities, but I find plenty of common moths too.

'After a little while you get to see what is increasing, what is decreasing, what's struggling and what we need to do to conserve them. I also get some nice photographs, and some fresh air and exercise. There are certainly worse things for blokes to do at 42 years old. Drinking in bars never appealed to me.'

Mr Casey, long with another enthusiast Andrew Brown, also recently discovered Norfolk's first yellow-legged tortoiseshell and the county's first lizard orchid for 60 years.

The Herb Emerald

The Herb Emerald (Microloxia herbaria) is a Mediterranean moth species, locally-distributed in southern Europe, including the south of France, Italy, Spain and the Balkans. It is also noted outside Europe in Turkey, central Asia, Russia and Pakistan.

It was originally thought to be a migrant, however this species has no known history of migration. Mr Casey's Norfolk sighting is believed to have arrived via a shipment of plants to a garden centre.

It was named after its bright green colour, and the preferred food source of the larvae, which feeds on variety of herbs and shrubs including thyme, apple mint, curry plant and germanders.

Norfolk moths

To date, about 672 species of macro-moth along with 1,128 species of micro-moth have been recorded in Norfolk since records began in Victorian times. The Norfolk Moths website aims to provide full details of all the species that occur – or once occurred– in the county, with photographs, descriptions, flight graphs, latest records, and distribution maps.

Records and photographs can be submitted to the county moth recorder Jim Wheeler via the website www.norfolkmoths.co.uk. All verified records will be included in the county database.

Have you made a rare wildlife discovery? Contact chris.hill@archant.co.uk.