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Moth species recorded in Scotland for first time in ‘exciting’ discovery

A sallow-shoot piercer moth (Patrick Clement/PA)
A sallow-shoot piercer moth (Patrick Clement/PA)

A species of moth has been recorded in Scotland for the first time in an “exciting discovery”, nature experts have said.

The sallow-shoot piercer moth was spotted perching on a nettle at the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Cathkin Marsh wildlife reserve near Glasgow by regular visitor Bill Higgins on a recent trip.

He was initially unable to identify the insect by consulting books and websites but the mystery was solved when he reached moth expert Dr Mark Young through an online forum.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust said there are currently just 29 records of the sallow-shoot piercer moth on the National Biodiversity Network Atlas and none north of Birmingham, however, the species is likely to be under-recorded.

Cathkin Marsh
Cathkin Marsh is situated near Glasgow (Scottish Wildlife Trust/PA)

Mr Higgins said: “Mark said he had a good idea of what the moth was and suggested I refer to a publication about the tortrix moth family and come back with an identification.

“I then told him what I thought it was, bearing in mind that it had never been recorded in Scotland before.

“I was delighted when Mark agreed with my identification and confirmed that I had the privilege of being the first to record the moth on this side of the border.

“I’m thrilled about my find, even though luck determined that I was there when the moth alighted on a nettle. Another few minutes either way and it may not have been there at all.”

The moth is one of thousands of species in the family of tortrix moths and relies on willow trees for its food source.

Eggs are laid on buds and the larvae burrow into twigs for the winter before emerging in spring as adults.

Billy Gray, the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s West Central Reserves Manager, said: “Bill’s exciting discovery shows there is lots we don’t know about Scotland’s wildlife.

“It’s likely that this species of moth has been in Scotland for some time and has simply gone unseen or unnoticed.

“Much of what we do know about wildlife is thanks to a small army of citizen scientists who record and report what they see.

“It’s incredibly useful to receive information about what people see on our wildlife reserves and there’s information on the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s website for anyone who’d like to get involved.”

Cathkin Marsh Wildlife Reserve is an area of fen and marshy grassland that is home to many birds including snipe, water rail and reed bunting, which can be viewed from the reserve hide.

Butterflies and dragonflies can be seen and there are many wildflowers during the summer.