Sussex Moth Conservation Trip

I’ve contacted Butterfly Conservation recently and knew that they have an event in Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, to cut back some bramble and scrub. There lives the Emerald moth, a rare species that only be found in Sussex. Marsh mallow is the primary resource for their survival and reproduction, while scrub grows fast and block out the sunlight vital to marsh mallow’s development. The goal of the event is to clean brambles and collect mash mallow seeds and replant them elsewhere.

Rye Railway Station

Rye is a small ancient town south of Britain, with medieval houses, harbours, and wetland near the sea. We arrived there by train at 9 am. After walking for forty minutes, we saw the entrance of Rye nature reserve, and several visitors walk their dogs on the weedy path.

Ships in the harbour

Rebecca and Emma, who are staff in Butterfly Conservation, meet us at the entrance, along with other five volunteers. They drive a truck, carrying garden tools and gloves, to a wide grassland near the road. Everyone wore gloves and took loppers or diggers to clean the scrub. Scrubs buried deep in the ground and stabs stuck out from its stem, so we had to be careful not to be pricked by them. It grows so fast that we need to excavate its root. Soon plucked brambles were piled up on the grassland.

Cutting scrubs on the truck

At the break, we talked about butterflies in the park. The adult moths fly from May to October, and then they lay eggs on the roots of wild carrots. Caterpillars grow until the summer in the next year. we can not see any moth during the day as they only forage at night.

Moth spotting is popular in summer, as there are thousands of moth species in the UK. People install their own moth watch equipment – a box with specific light and some plants, to attract moths to eat and lay eggs. Then they can check what’s been caught the next morning. This is also how people research the impact of light pollution on moths. They go out at night and count the caterpillars, to estimate the trends of the population in the future.

Marsh Mallow (Althaea officinalis) (Photo by: gailhampshire/Flickr)

Among a large number of butterfly species in Britain, a specific one called painted lady has a mysterious story. They were born in South Africa, and travel a long distance to the UK. It takes them six generations, stays in many cities along the journey to get there. People in the UK can only watch them every 11 years.

Image: Getty Images

In the afternoon, we take the truck, drive along a path into a grove of trees. There grows a cloud of marsh mallow flowers. We collect seeds from blasted marsh mallow flowers and put them in an envelope, to plant them in flower pots, then after winter, they are planted out into habit creation areas during the summer.

Marsh Mallow seeds planted in pots
Introduction to Emerald Moth | By Butterfly Conservation