Watch out for giant moth in Northern Ireland

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A giant moth whose tongue is longer than its body has been seen in Northern Ireland for the first time in three years, Butterfly Conservation can reveal.

The palm-sized Convolvulus Hawk-moth was the focus of last weekend’s Moth Night – an annual celebration of moths organised by the wildlife charity and Atropos to raise awareness of their beauty and importance.

The Convolvulus is one of the largest moths in Europe with a 12cm wingspan and yet it is capable of pin-point precision flight as it hovers to drink nectar from deep tubular tobacco plant flowers using its amazingly long 7.5cm proboscis.

A few hundred will migrate annually to the UK from southern Europe, mainly during late summer and early autumn, but one hasn’t been seen in Northern Ireland since 2012.

Andy Crory is the Moth Recorder for Butterfly Conservation’s Northern Ireland Branch and he spotted the Convolvulus in his own back garden in Newcastle, County Down, just a few weeks ago. He said: “I was over the moon when I saw a Convolvulus Hawk-moth feeding at my Nicotiana plants, as there have only been 60 previous records of this species in Northern Ireland. Imagine my surprise when the very next day a second one appeared!

“Having had such poor weather in Northern Ireland this summer, seeing this moth is definitely one of my personal highlights for the year - a fact not lost on my wife who remarked that I was more excited about a moth than our daughters second birthday earlier that day!”

The appearance of the Convolvulus Hawk-moth in Northern Ireland and the increase in migrant moth records could reveal important information about the effects of climate change on the UK’s moth populations.

Butterfly Conservations Regional Officer for Northern Ireland, Catherine Bertrand said: “Despite the weather, Moth Night was a success in Northern Ireland this year. Thanks to our volunteers and partners, we had several events running across the country and moths of all kinds were found, like the Canary-shouldered Thorn and the Centre-barred Sallow, a priority species.

“Moths are just as important as butterflies and other pollinators like bees - they have faced serious declines in the last 40 years, with three species becoming extinct since 2000. Moth Night is about raising that awareness and encouraging everyone to appreciate these creatures.

“Making small, positive changes to your surroundings can help moths, butterflies and other pollinators and schools here in Northern Ireland are now being invited to do this. Butterfly Conservation is proud to be a partner in the UK-wide Polli:Nation project, which will help schools get more involved in learning about our precious pollinators.”

Schools have until the end of the day on Monday 21st September to apply for funding to take part in the Polli:Nation project. Find out more by visiting www.ltl.org.uk/pollination/getinvolved