A rare moth, hardly seen since 2006, has made a re-appearance at Earthwatch's Regional Climate Centre in Oxfordshire's Wytham Woods. With patterned brown forewings and hindwings of contrasting orange with black dots, the Garden Tiger moth (Arctia caja) is a striking and unmistakable creature.
The beautiful Garden Tiger moth.
Garden tiger sightings in the Upper Thames Region (Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire) have been extremely rare during the past four years possibly as a result of shifting weather patterns attributable to climate change. When positive identification of a garden tiger came from Earthwatch's Regional Climate Centre this summer, it was a pleasant surprise to say the least. Research scientist Dr Eleanor Slade from the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU - part of Oxford University's Zoology Department) says: "The moth year is not yet over and all records have not yet been submitted so we cannot be sure that ours are the only records but, based on data from the last few years they will almost certainly be one of only very few, making this discovery all the more interesting and valuable."
The garden tiger sightings in the north edge of Wytham Woods were recorded while a team of 12 volunteer ‘Climate Champions' from HSBC bank were working alongside researchers who are studying the effects of woodland fragmentation on the movement patterns of moths as part of the HSBC Climate Partnership*. Over the five years of the partnership, 400 HSBC employees will spend time at the centre.
Dr Slade says: "Having so many pairs of hands, eyes and ears to assist with our research is incredibly valuable. It hugely increases the volume of data that we are able to collect, and increases the likelihood that rare sightings like this will be recorded, helping to build a more comprehensive picture of how our woodlands are responding to climate change."
The dramatic drop in sightings of the garden tiger in Berkshire (recording schemes follow the old county boundaries and so Wytham Woods is classed as part of Berkshire) is mirrored across neighbouring regions. County Moth Recorder, Martin Harvey said: "The moth records for Berkshire show that the Garden Tiger has severely declined over the last 25 years, so the new records from Wytham Woods are very welcome news."
*The HSBC climate partnership is a five year programme which brings together HSBC, Earthwatch, The Climate Group, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and WWF to respond to the urgent threat of climate change worldwide.