What is a Barberry Carpet Moth?
This medium-sized moth is a victim of collateral damage. Its caterpillars feed on Common Barberry, Berberis vulgaris, a shrub of hedgerows and woodland edge. This was a host for wheat rust fungus, and so was almost eradicated to protect wheat crops. Rust-resistant wheat varieties have solved this problem, but almost too late for the Barberry Carpet Moth. The species has been recorded over southern England and as far north as Yorkshire in the past. Now there are believed to be just ten populations left, mostly in Wiltshire, with colonies also in Gloucestershire, Dorset and Oxfordshire and introduced colonies elsewhere.
Why are they in trouble?
Common Barberry is now scarce following the eradication efforts on farmland. It’s not clear if Barberry is native, but it has been long established in the wild in the UK, and is of course of great importance to this rare, native moth as well as other species including the Scarce Tissue moth and the Barberry Sawfly. Until the plant’s populations recover, the moth’s populations are vulnerable. Timing of Barberry hedgerow management is also crucial – highest densities of larvae are found on bushes not trimmed until late autumn and cutting hedges during the summer when caterpillars are present could easily damage a population.
How we’ll help the Barberry Carpet Moth
This Back from the Brink project is focused on strengthening the remaining populations of the moth in Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Dorset. We will be linking up the extant colonies in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire by finding new locations for planting between these sites and by additional planting on existing sites for the moth. In Dorset, we aim to increase and strengthen the population by additional planting on and around the one remaining site for the moth. We aim to increase the available habitat by planting at least 3000 new Barberry plants in these areas over the life of the project.
We are working with the landowners at existing sites and approaching new landowners and individuals to discuss planting in suitable areas. There are many opportunities for volunteers to get involved – growing barberry plants form seed or cuttings, helping with planting tasks, carrying out scrub and hedgerow management and also by helping to survey for the moth or its’ food-plant. We are providing free land management advice and encourage any interested parties to get in touch.
All moth sites are surveyed every year, to note presence/ absence of the species and to ensure that any problems are identified and resolved. We’ll also be running public events in some areas to introduce the moth to people, and explain its importance.
What we’re aiming for
By the end of the project, we aim to have made the existing Barberry Carpet Moth populations more secure, and hope to have established new ones. We will also have produced a leaflet for landowners and the public, to ensure its needs are more widely understood and interest is heightened.
How to get involved
Can you help us with surveys, growing plants or with undertaking habitat management? Find out more at our talks and events, or by contacting our project officer.
You can get the latest news, and find out about upcoming events, by following the links below.
First volunteer task creating suitable habitat conditions for planting Barberry at the Dorset site
Collection of 250 Barberry plants to be planted in and around the Dorset site in autumn/winter 2017
Delivery of 300 plants for planting on the Wiltshire & Gloucestershire sites
31st October 2017
Planting of 100 new Barberry plants at the disused railway line in Stourpaine, Dorset
13th November 2017
First volunteer task on the Wiltshire sites to plant Barberry; in the Hullavington area