Fiery clearwing moth (Bembecia chrysidiformis)

SizeWingspan: 18 - 26 mm

Classified as Endangered in the UK.

The Fiery Clearwing moth is the rarest of the family of clearwings, all of whom resemble parasitic wasps more than moths. This species carries orange markings on the upper wings, hence its name. The males are a little smaller than the females, and both sexes have dark bodies with a prominent red patch at the end of the tail.

This moth is found throughout central and southern Europe. Britain marks the northern-most part of its range. Although it has been occasionally recorded along most of the south coast of the UK, and was formerly found in Essex, it is now restricted to the Kent coast.

Warm, south-facing slopes are where the fiery clearwing moth lays its eggs, and where the adults feed on nectar bearing flowers. They have a habit of resting on bare ground during the day.

The food plants of this moth are the curled dock (Rumex crispus) and common sorrel (Rumex acetosa), which should ideally grow on bare ground or on very short turf. The caterpillars feed on the roots of these plants and take one year to develop. The adult moths fly in June and July.

The moth is restricted to south-east England due to climatic influence. It has declined due to destruction of habitat by development, sea defence work and, ironically, coastal erosion and lack of management of its habitats resulting in scrub invasion. The use of herbicides to kill docks has caused problems at some sites, and individual collectors of this moth may put some small populations under additional pressure.

The Fiery Clearwing moth is included in the UK Biodiversity Action Plans and English Nature's Species Recovery Programme (SRP). There are two main objectives in the fight to preserve this species as a UK resident. The main priority for the existing sites is correct management to ensure that there is sufficient foodplant growing in appropriate locations. Other bodies involved in the management of these sites, such as coast defence engineers, must be made aware of the protected status and habitat requirements of the moth to avoid accidental damage. The second task involves expanding the populations by managing the adjacent land to existing sites in the hope that increasing the supply of the food plants will produce more moths. It is possible that other breeding populations exist that have yet to be discovered, and further survey work should find these. The management plans for the Fiery Clearwing moth are closely allied with the habitat management plans for maritime cliffs and slopes. Linking two plans like this, is an important part of saving many species, as there is obviously a need to preserve the places where many plants and animals are found. Restoring habitats can bring benefit to many endangered species.

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