Decline of Derbyshire's moth population 'down to weather and farming'
THE number of moths in Derbyshire has declined in the last 40 years.
Research has been carried out on figures from 1968 to 2007 by national conservation groups, which shows the moth population has gone down by a third nationally.
And the report – by Butterfly Conservation and Rothamsted Research – concludes that three species have become entirely extinct.
Although there no are specific figures for Derbyshire, it is believed to be in line with the national trend.
Dave Budworth, secretary of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Entomological Society, said moths used to be "incredibly common" in the county.
He said: "The Derbyshire Entomological Society was started in 1914 and members have been keeping records since day one.
"We have reports from people in Derbyshire from that time who set up light traps in their gardens and who would catch 1,000 of one species of moth in a month. Now, you're lucky if you get 1,000 over the course of a year."
The report states that the findings point to a wider insect biodiversity crisis.
The declines could have a knock-on effect for plant pollination and animals reliant on moths for food, such as garden and woodland birds, bats and small mammals.
Mr Budworth said heavy rain last year could have killed off moth larvae.
He said: "We will see this year if any species managed to survive."
One species which used to be very common in Derbyshire was the garden tiger moth. The caterpillar was often known as the "woolly bear" and was a common sight in gardens.
However, numbers of the species has gone down 89% nationally since 1968.
Mr Budworth said: "Throughout a year we might catch 15 or 20, but in the mid-60s you'd have about 1,300 of these in a trap over a year."
Mr Budworth said he believed the decline in moths was due to farming methods and global warming, which can see species settle in different countries.
He said: "Ask anyone in their middle age and they will tell you after driving through the countryside on a summer evening they would have to clean their windscreen of all the moths.
"That's a much less common thing now.
"When farmers cut hedgerows, they use machines which cut them to pieces and leave less places for moths.
"My feeling is that the decline is to do with the expansion of roads, towns and housing.
"You can't find your way anywhere now without walking on concrete."
However, Mr Budworth said there was one species on the up – the light brown apple moth.
He said: "They came from Australia originally as an accidental import. They started off in Cornwall but have spread all over the country."