Saving England's most threatened species from extinction

Introducing the Barberry Carpet Moth

The start of the Barberry Carpet Project has been a good learning curve for me in many ways.  I have been getting to know my way around North Dorset and North Wiltshire, the main strongholds for the moth, and meeting many people who have been involved with conservation of the moth for many years.  It has been a new direction for me as I was previously a ranger for many years so this post comes with fresh challenges.

I was first introduced to moth trapping when I was completing work experience at Gibraltar Point NNR in Lincolnshire back in 2002.  I will never forget feeling blown away by the variety of species we caught and their amazing camouflage. These things are all around us when we are out in nature during the day but we are only likely to see a tiny fraction of them unless we really go looking for them.  This project should provide opportunities for introducing others to moth trapping during the summer months through holding public events.

The Barberry Carpet project seeks to link the remaining colonies of this rare moth by planting out lots of Common Barberry, the food-plant, in areas around and between the existing colonies.  The Dorset colony is extremely isolated from the rest in the project area and we are therefore aiming to increase its distribution through planting in all directions.  We are aiming to plant out 750 young Barberry plants this winter and are working in partnership with local landowners and land managers such as the Forestry Commission, the National Trust, Dorset County Council and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.  I have been getting touch with landowners, land managers, local schools, churches, and putting articles in parish newsletters, all to see if anyone would be willing to have some Barberry planted on their land.  So far, responses have been great and I am finding that many people are in support of the project and willing to volunteer their time to help too.  Of course this project has a wider scope than just the Barberry Carpet moth as it helps to highlight the importance of sensitive hedgerow management; cutting Barberry hedges during the summer months when the caterpillars are feeding could potentially decimate a population.  All new plantings will also help other species including the Barberry Sawfly, the Scarce Tissue moth, and all the invertebrates, birds and small mammals that will benefit from the flowers and the berries.

Fiona Haynes

3 thoughts on “Introducing the Barberry Carpet Moth

  1. Hi, I live in Devon so a bit out of range for the carpet just now, but buying a Barberry for a pot outside my front door last year, I found that nowhere actually sells Berberis Vulgaris and so I had to plump for one of the none native Berberis instead. Are any of these used by the moth? There’s also a specialist berberis nursery near Crediton in Devon, could they be approached and encouraged to grow and promote the native type for the Barberry Carpet? Or if none natives can support the insect provide leaflets and information on suitable pruning for their customers? Then we might eventually have some in Devon too 🙂 thanks, James.

  2. Hi James, thanks for the question. It’s such a shame that it seems impossible to get Berberis vulgaris for the garden and unfortunately the moth won’t use the cultivated varieties. I wasn’t aware of the specialist Berberis nursey so I will get in touch with them. At the moment we use some specialist growers that are providing plants for the project and are collecting seeds for them from the wild. Fiona

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