South Cheshire Rare Moths Project

Goat moth pheromone trap at Deer Park Mere, May 2019 (c) Tom Hayek


‘Guess what’.


‘I left the pheromones in the freezer. We need to go back’.

‘Haha, very funny.’

‘No, really…’

So started the South Cheshire Rare Moths Project (or SCRaM to its friends). Our mission: to look for three moths (Goat moth, Large Red-belted Clearwing and Small Eggar) that had not been found in south Cheshire for many years. Were they truly absent or just under-recorded?

Light trap at Chapel Mere, July 2019 (c) Tom Hayek

Our search focussed on the privately owned Cholmondeley Estate and the Bickley Hall Farm estate managed by Cheshire Wildlife Trust. Both sites contained habitat which was suitable for some or all of our target species, and we planned our surveys based on their flight seasons. Our search methods included using pheromone traps, light traps and good old fashioned hedge-walking.

How did we do? Unfortunately we didn’t find any of our target species. We also experienced several logistical issues (in addition to initially forgetting the pheromones!), the main one being the failure of our generator ten minutes into powering our moth traps on Visit 1.  Moth numbers were very low during our trapping session in July on Visit 2, probably due to the weather being unseasonably cold. However, despite these disappointments we both learnt a lot, improving not only our invertebrate identification (we tried to record as many invertebrates as we could, either in the field or later from photographs) but also about how to plan and carry out a focussed survey like this one. We had a lot of fun during the surveys and made around 150 invertebrate records.

Variable Damselfly at Chapel Mere, July 2019 (c) Charlie Bell

We did have a major success – finding a new site for variable damselfly, another one of the Tanyptera Project’s shortlisted species. This was a lovely find, with many individuals of both sexes recorded on consecutive days, indicating a breeding population.

The most memorable incident occurred whilst we were setting up the moth trap during Visit 2 and were suddenly rushed by an extremely angry, extremely snarly badger! We had unwittingly set the moth traps in the middle of a badger path and must have been downwind as he had no idea we were there until he bumbled into us. I’m not sure who was more scared, although one of us did scream incredibly loudly…

We had a lot of fun planning and carrying out the surveys, despite not being as successful as we had hoped. We hope to revisit the sites in the future and continue our search. Our many thanks to the Tanyptera Trust for making it possible and to the Cholmondely Estate and Cheshire Wildlife Trust who granted us access.

A summary report of the SCRaM project can be found here

Surveying Common Farm, July 2019 (c) Charlie Bell