Great Outdoors

Extra-warm September brought rare moths to West Cork

September 18th, 2023 10:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

The Old World webworm moth spotted in Skibbereen on September 7th, photographed by Ann Haigh and, right, the dark mottled willow moth found in Ardfield last weekend, photographed by Michael O’Sullivan Jnr.

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MOTHS that were last recorded in Ireland 15 years ago have been found in West Cork as unusually high September temperatures and southerly winds look to have brought the rare creatures back.

The start of September has been unusually warm with heatwaves (five consecutive days of 25C) in areas.

The heat coupled with southerly winds moved a North African air mass towards Ireland, bringing with it Saharan sand and some surprise visitors.

In Ireland there is a small but dedicated group of people that trap, identify and record Irish moths and this group has good representation in West Cork. They use moth traps to monitor the 1,500 species of moths in Ireland. Moth traps are simple in design and use a specialised light source to attract the moths which then fall into a container, where the moths are counted, identified, and released unharmed. A licence from the National Parks and Wildlife Service is required to trap moths in this way.

Over the past few weeks moth trapping in West Cork has been in earnest due to the conditions, especially along the coast where there have been high hopes of finding some extraordinary moths outside of their usual range. The moths did not disappoint and on September 7th, both myself in Skibbereen and Fiona O’Neill at Harbour View beach, near Kilbrittain, both recorded a moth that is very rare in Ireland. This tiny moth is called the Old World webworm moth and had only been recorded twice in Ireland before. 

Records continued to be broken over the weekend, with father and son moth-trapping duo, Michael O’Sullivan senior and junior, finding a dark mottled willow moth in Ardfield, Clonakilty.

This is only the second time that this moth has been recorded in Ireland, the last time was in 2008.

Changing weather patterns are changing the appearance, and disappearance, of many species and only time will tell what impact this will have in the long-run.

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