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Rare moth survey under way in the Avon Gorge

Photo issued by Bristol Zoological Society of the Silky Wave Moth, only found in the UK at Bristol's Avon Gorge.

By Bronwen Weatherby, PA

A rare moth will be the focus of a survey carried out by conservationists over the next month, the Bristol Zoological Society (BZS) has said.

The silky wave moth will be observed during its flight season, which takes place from June to early July, in the Avon Gorge – the only place in England they can be found.

The gorge, which runs for 1.5 miles along the River Avon, is home to an array of species – and the white-winged moths are said to be crucial to understanding the surrounding habitat.

A team of moth counters will set out on specific mornings in the coming weeks with walking sticks which they will use to lightly tap the paths to get the moths to fly and then each one will be tallied.

First discovered in the area in 1851, moth numbers only began to be monitored on an ad hoc basis from 1992 until 2011 when the Bristol Zoological Society officially took over the annual monitoring of the site.

Last year, the yearly search for the moths went ahead under Covid-19 restrictions, and 342 of the insects were recorded during the species’ peak flight week.

Dr Jen Nightingale, the charity’s UK conservation manager, said: “It is a little bit of a mystery why they are in this gorge and not in any others.

“This is the tenth year we’ve been surveying on a rigorous basis for the silky wave and it’s so important because how this species is faring tell us so much about how the other species and habitats in this very special, important, unique area are also doing.

“We have a duty to ensure their survival into the future.”

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