The Himalayan Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grewelthorpe is using Moth Night 2020 to launch new surveying work to unveil potentially rare species in its unique Himalayan habitat.
Moth Night is a national annual celebration of moths and moth recordings throughout the British Isles, organised by Atropos, Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.
Head Gardener Stephen Ward said: “We’re building an association with the Butterfly Conservation Trust for this year’s Moth Night, which runs from 27 to 29 August. We’re keen to find out if there are some rarer species, or certain species that have limited numbers in this area. Through the survey work we’ll find out the numbers we’ve got, and how we can improve those numbers.”
Over 80 outdoor sculptures are set in the open-air gallery that sits in tranquil valley, which provides a microclimate that’s fertile ground for unique and sometimes rare Himalayan and Asian plant species. With three lakes and an arboretum, the Himalayan Gardens are also home to the North’s largest collection of rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias, with nearly 20,000 plants.
Moth Night 2020 will involve the team of gardeners undertaking the survey work, but Stephen’s ambition is to use the findings as a springboard to launch a series of monthly surveying workshops for visitors and the general public.
He said: “We’re testing the grounds. As far as I know this hasn’t been done before at the Himalayan Gardens and with the varieties of landscapes and flowers unique to this site it will be very interesting to really find out what moth species we’ve got. Then we can springboard from there and use that information to inform our visitors and hopefully encourage them to take part as well.”
Moths are vital not just as indicators of the health of a habitat but its wildlife.
Stephen explained: “Moths are fascinating to look at but they are also part of the food chain. Other creatures like bats eat them, and that’s another area we’ll be looking at – to do bat survey nights to determine what species of bats we have. They’re also a food source for owls and we have owls in the gardens too, so I’m keen to work with the RSPB to schedule owl nights and improve their habitat. As part of the eco system, the moths indicate the health of a thriving environment.”
Despite moths playing an important part in biodiversity as pollinators, the often-overlooked insects have declined by around a third since the 1960s. In the twentieth century over 60 species of moth became extinct.
Stephen Ward joined the Himalayan Gardens as Head Gardener six months ago, bringing 40 years’ experience to the role. He has ambitious plans to not only increase knowledge of its wildlife for the public, but also to develop planting to encourage more moths, butterflies and wildlife.
Stephen has done a trial run to test moths on site and found Elephant Hawk and Red Underwing moths. Moth Night 2020 encourages the public to submit moth records of all species but organisers are particularly interested in the Red Underwing as the dates coincide with the flight periods of four of the Red Underwing moths recorded in the British Isles.
Stephen added “It is important to understand the distribution and habitat requirements of moths so that they can be conserved, and events such as Moth Night have an important role to play in this understanding. Experts travel as far from Scotland or Cornwall to come to record moths if specific species are found that aren’t found anywhere else. I’m hoping through the survey work we find something here that can peak that kind of national interest. The survey work will help us find what we have, how we can improve the habitat, and if we have any species that isn’t supposed to be here, or is unique to this habitat.”
To find out more about taking part in Moth Night go to https://www.mothnight.info/ Stephen will be launching a new blog this September on the Himalayan Gardens website on how the public can get involved with its wildlife surveys www.himalayangarden.com