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Dark bordered beauty moth conservation breeding programme

Dark bordered beauty moth conservation breeding programme

Invertebrates are crucial to our ecosystems and at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) we are determined to stand up for the little guys as we face global declines in biodiversity. Dark bordered beauty moths are currently found in just two sites in Scotland and one in England. To help boost the wild population, our charity is undertaking a conservation breeding programme for this species.

Dark bordered beauty moths in Scotland are reliant on aspen suckers, which can require complex management to protect. In the wild, sites with suitable habitat are quite fragmented and spaced out so the moths are not currently able to disperse to new sites themselves. The purpose of the new breeding programme is to breed enough dark bordered beauty moths to be able to release them into new, suitable habitats.

This is the first large scale breeding attempt for this species. Like many invertebrates, dark bordered beauty moths have several distinct life stages, each with their own feeding and habitat requirements. To breed the species successfully, we have to make sure that the egg, caterpillar, pupa, and adult moth stage are all well-catered for. To help us achieve this, we have constructed a purpose-built facility at Highland Wildlife Park with different types of housing for each life stage and full climate control to give our moths the best chance possible of breeding and producing lots more moths for release.

We have already overseen a successful breeding cycle at our Highland Wildlife Park and the first releases took place in 2023.

As very little is known about the dark bordered beauty moth, close monitoring of the species by our expert team is providing an opportunity for new insight into reproductive and ecological behaviours.

Meanwhile, our partners at Rare Invertebrates in the Cairngorms have been undertaking surveys to find new sites of suckering aspen and working with landowners to try and help create better habitat for the moths to be released into.

This work is in collaboration with the Rare Invertebrates in the Cairngorms project, a partnership between the RSPB, Cairngorms National Park Authority, RZSS, Buglife Scotland, Butterfly Conservation Scotland, and NatureScot.

This project is also supported by the People’s Postcode Lottery.

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