Shropshire Star

Harper Adams project aims to help record data on British moths

An insect installation at Harper Adams University will add records to a survey of British moths which has been running every night since 1968.

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John Owen, left, and Dr Tom Pope with the new moth trap.

A new moth trap is the latest across the country, which will feed into the Rothamsted Insect Survey – a network of light traps across the UK and which is now one of the longest running data sets of insect numbers anywhere in the world.

With a number of moth enthusiasts among the staff and students at Harper Adams – from undergraduate students to senior academics – the new trap will allow their work to feed into the Rothamsted study, with their records joining dozens each night from sites across the UK.

PhD student John Owen, who is helping to organise the use of the trap on the Harper Adams campus, said: “The Rothamsted light trap network had its origins in the early 60’s and was an attempt to capitalise on the UK’s numerous amateur entomologists to collect data on insect populations.

“Volunteers were issued with a light trap and catches were identified and the data sent into the Rothamsted Insect Survey. The network operates across Great Britain and has been running continuously every night since 1968.

“Whilst some of the traps have been operating at the same location since the very start of the program, some sites no longer operate, and new sites have been added.”

The site at Harper Adams – which can be found outside the Jean Jackson Entomology building on the south side of campus – was added in the autumn and began recording in mid-October. The trap works as insects, and moths in particular, are attracted to light.

Each night, as twilight falls, the trap is switched on, with moths attracted to its light source. They are caught in the ‘lobster-pot’ design of the trap, where they can be identified and recorded later by the University’s in-house team of lepidopterists – or moth experts.

John added: “The unique data provided by the study we will now be feeding into is both informative and alarming, confirming the long-held belief that insect numbers are in decline. It shows that British moths have fallen by around 30 per cent since the late sixties, with coastal and woodland moths in sharpest decline.

“Multiple factors are thought to be responsible, including changes in land use, urbanisation, pesticide usage, invasive species, climate change and light pollution. Continued monitoring of moth numbers is vital if we are to halt and reverse this trend and Harper’s entomology team are delighted to be part of this important scheme.”