Not everyone would be happy to come across a Dingy Footman on a dark night but in a recent survey of moths by Butterfly Conservation at Southam Quarry, a Lepidopterist was delighted to see one. This moth and more importantly, the Pammene Suspectana, are just two of 120 species surveyed at the site, making Southam Quarry one of the most important sites in the Midlands for both moths and butterflies.
A ‘first’ for Warwickshire and the rarest moth spotted at the site so far is the Pammene Suspectana listed in the Red Data book, a list of species of whose continued existence is threatened. Pammene Suspectana is solely dependent on the Ash tree for its food and at Southam, Ash trees have been planted along the roadside on the edge of the site to provide screening from the operations.
The other rare species spotted at the site is the dark smudge, Ypsolopha horridella which is nationally scarce according to the Butterfly Conservation’s Moth Report. Horridella is derived from horridus meaning shaggy and highlights the raised crests on the moth’s wings.
“I was delighted to find so many different species during the recent survey, particularly the Pammenes Suspectana which is a new species for Warwickshire. This is yet further evidence that the CEMEX restoration at Southam Quarry is working superbly for wildlife. The site has a varied habitat including rare Calcareous and scrubby grasslands, as well as wet and marshy areas. CEMEX has seeded a varied wildflower mix to help the biodiversity and in between the seeded areas there is a lot of bare ground which allows increasing ground temperatures,” comments Michael Slater, Volunteer Conservation Officer for Butterfly Conservation.
Other species found at Southam include Garden Pebble, Marbled Beauty, Small Phoenix and Wormwood Pug. These and other moths have a vital role in nature as a pollinator, often they are as beautiful as butterflies and can have superb camouflage. For example, the Buff-Tip is easily mistaken for a broken twig of Silver Birch.
Southam Quarry has provided the ideal breeding ground for the Small Blue butterfly, where the largest colony in the Midlands now exists. The area planted with the wildflower mix has resulted in the Small Blue caterpillar food plant, Kidney Vetch, growing extensively.