Male and female Belted Beauty moths are strikingly different in appearance; females have tiny, 2 mm long non-functional wings (3) and are dark in colour (4), whereas males have white to greyish wings with brown or black markings (5).
The Belted Beauty moth is single brooded, and adults are present in March and April. Both sexes can be found sitting on low vegetation during the day and night (1), and males tend to fly in the early evening (5). Females can only crawl very short distances (3), and males detect them by means of pheromones (3). The caterpillars occur between May and July (1) and may feed on a variety of other plants including burnet rose (Rosa pimpinellifolia), yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and black medick (Medicago lupulina) (6), in addition to the main foodplants named above (2). Caterpillars burrow into the sand in July (6), spend the winter underground as pupae, and emerge as adults the following year. Individuals are able to remain as pupae for another year or two (6) if the weather is unsuitable (3).
The subspeciesLycia zonaria britannica is found only in the UK (3), and is extremely localised; it is found on the coasts of Morfa Conwy in Caernarvonshire, north Wales, Sunderland Point in Lancashire, and the Wirral in Cheshire. The other subspecies of the Belted Beauty moth Lycia zonaria atlantica occurs in coastal areas of west Scotland (2). Elsewhere the species occurs in Europe from Western Europe to Russia and from Scandinavia to the Alps (2).
At its sites on the Wirral and in north Wales, the moth is associated with semi-fixed, herb-rich dune grassland where caterpillars feed preferentially on kidney vetch Anthyllis vulneraria at Meols Common and bird's-foot trefoil Lotus corniculatus at Morfa Conwy, although they do have a wider range of foodplants. At Sunderland Point, the moth is associated with an area of upper saltmarsh and associated grassland where the caterpillars feed on Lotus corniculatus and autumnal hawkbit Leontodon autumnalis(6).
The major factor affecting this species has been habitat loss through development, trampling of dune systems by humans and the natural successional changes in vegetation on these habitats (2). The natural processes of dune formation and inland movement are often restricted by development or agricultural land located immediately landwards of dune systems (3). With the additional threat of future sea-level rise, without loss of agricultural land, it seems likely that many dune systems will be lost as a result of 'coastal squeeze' (4). In addition, the poor dispersal ability of this species does not allow it to readily recolonise appropriate habitat (2).
The Species Action Plan produced for this moth under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) aims to maintain all known Belted Beauty populations in England and Wales (6), and enhance these populations before 2010. This may be achieved through a programme of appropriate habitat management, increasing the area of suitable habitat available and linking currently fragmented habitats (2). Two reintroductions were attempted in Cheshire in 1994, but these were not successful. A 3-year introduction programme to an additional site in north Wales commenced in spring 2002 (6). A survey carried out in 2000 by Butterfly Conservation identified several potentially suitable sites for this species, and research into various management techniques is being carried out at the site in the Wirral (3).
The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.
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