Rare species of moth spotted in Scotland for first time

The Scottish Wildlife Trust said a visitor to a wildlife reserve spotted a sallow-shoot piercer moth — the first of its species documented in the country.

The wildlife trust said Bill Higgins was walking in the Cathkin Marsh Wildlife Reserve, which is operated by the trust and situated near Glasgow, when he identified the unusual visitor.

“The moth is one of thousands of species in the family of tortrix moths,” the trust said in a news release. “It relies on willow trees as its food plant. Eggs are laid on buds and the larvae burrow into twigs for the winter before emerging in spring as adults.”

The trust said there have been only 29 reported sightings of sallow-shoot piercer moths on Britain’s National Biodiversity Network Atlas, and none had ever before been seen north of Birmingham, England.

Higgins said he initially did not know the species of the moth, so he reached out to expert Mark Young via an online forum.

“Mark said he had a good idea of what the moth was and suggested I refer to a publication about the tortrix moth family and come back with an identification. I then told him what I thought it was, bearing in mind that it had never been recorded in Scotland before,” Higgins told the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

“I was delighted when Mark agreed with my identification and confirmed that I had the privilege of being the first to record the moth on this side of the border,” he said.

Billy Gray, the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s West Central Reserves manager, described the discovery as “exciting.”

“Bill’s exciting discovery shows there is lots we don’t know about Scotland’s wildlife. It’s likely that this species of moth has been in Scotland for some time and has simply gone unseen or unnoticed,” he said.