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The moths of Tees Valley's industrial sites; Robert Woods reports on his survey of the moths of Teesside's industrial sites.

Byline: Robert Woods

Moths are closely related to butterflies, but because most are nocturnal they are often overlooked and may even be thought of as dull and boring. This is a great pity because they are an important part of natural ecosystems as plant pollinators and a food source for bats and other animals. They are highly sensitive to environmental change, so regular moth recording can give a snapshot of the environmental health of a site.

In 2008, the Industry Nature Conservation Association (INCA) set out to study the moths of six industrial sites across the Tees Valley to develop our understanding about moth populations and to help improve the conservation value of sites.

A total of 200 of the 1300 or so species recorded in the North East have been found so far, with one site recording 110 species over only a few visits! At least 14 of the species found are regionally scarce..

One species, Blomer's rivulet, is scarce nationally, but in our area it is characteristic of the wooded valleys of East Cleveland which contain wych elm, its larval food plant. Another species, the garden tiger, has undergone a serious decline nationally. It was found on several sites in 2008. The hairy caterpillars of this species, popularly called 'Woolly Bears', used to be a common feature 30 or 40 years ago, but it is thought that milder, wetter winters do not favour this species.

Southern wainscot and silky wainscot, although not very inspiring to look at, are currently fairly scarce in our region. Both species are associated with reedbeds and are known to be moving northwards as climatic conditions here become more favourable for breeding.

This ongoing study shows the importance of our industrial sites to wildlife and helps to demonstrate the commitment that many companies have towards the environment..

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Alan Price, Gatehouse Studio
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:May 18, 2009
Words:309
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