Mar 142013

Essex Emerald Moth

Essex Emerald Moth

On Saturday Sally and I went to Sevenoaks Wildfowl Reserve – not to see the Bittern that had been reported but to have a look at the insect collection in the museum at the Visitor Centre. I was hoping that it would contain some gall wasps or parasitic wasps but sadly, for me, it was mainly Lepidoptera. However I did find some mounted specimens of the Essex Emerald Moth (they are specimens reared from caterpillars by S. Wakely in Essex in ?1930’s). As you can see this is a really beautiful moth and this was the first time I had seen one! Some of you might remember that I used to carry out surveys for the RSPB at the Elmley Reserve on Sheppey. One of my target species was the ground lackey moth. This we found in large numbers on the saltmarsh at the far end of the reserve at Spitend. However, while on the saltmarsh I always used to keep a eye open for the caterpillars of the Essex Emerald. These feed on the upper saltmarsh exclusively on Artemisa (Seriphidium) maritimum – Sea Wormwood. However I never really had much hope of seeing one as the Essex Emerald moth has been extinct since the 1980’s! The shore at Spitend was the last known site for this species in the wild. The moth was maintained in captivity for a few years but this colony eventually failed. Bob Gomes, the RSPB warden at the time, retired recently and when I last met him he was really saddened to relate that he was the last person to see this moth in the wild. Whenever I go to that part of Sheppey at the right season I always take a quick look at the Sea Wormwood – just in case. Hoping may not be enough – but it is all I can do.


 Posted by on 14 March 2013 at 9:30 pm

  3 Responses to “Essex Emerald Moth”

Comments (3)
  1. Re-Essex Emerald Moth.

    Let’s hope that there’s enough established saltmarsh with Sea Wormwood which makes possible its return one day. After all, the Dainty Damselfly made it back again after the great flood that wiped out its population in Essex. I’m not sure the Dainty is here for good but you never know, there may be just enough to re-kindle a new population.
    If an Essex Emerald made it back- not sure whether it would be a sub-species of our own, but nice whatever.


    • As far as I know the Essex Emerald was a saltmarsh specialist subspecies unique to the Thames Estuary. So if its gone, although the species it still in Europe, there is no way back. Saltmarsh habitats in the Thames are also in decline – partly because of habitat loss due to development but mainly due to sea level rise. In many locations on the Thames shore the upper saltmarsh has been lost with the result that plants such as Sea Wormwood are also in decline. In the last few years there has been a lot of talk about saltmarsh creation by controlled breaching of sea walls. However recent research has shown that the saltmarsh that is created does not develop the plant or animal biodiversity of natural saltmarsh. Its back to good old fashioned conservation – look after what you have.

      • Thanks for the information on this Malcolm. As you say, keeping what we have is crucial. It’s a pity that some don’t see it that way.