Fisher's estuarine moth (Gortyna borelii lunata)

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumArthropoda
ClassInsecta
OrderLepidoptera
FamilyNoctuidae
GenusGortyna (1)
SizeWingspan: 42 - 60 mm (2)

Classified as Vulnerable in Great Britain (3), and fully protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 (4).

The race of Fisher's Estuarine Moth that occurs in Britain is subspecieslunata (3). Adults are generally pale orange-brown in colour, with dark and light spots on the forewings, and a dark band passing across the bottom of the forewings (5). The caterpillars are black with greyish stripes and a shiny, reddish head (5).

Restricted to one area in the north-east of Essex (3), where it was first discovered in 1968 (2), but had probably been present since at least 1903 (3).

Inhabits marshy fields (3), offshore islands, raised banks and waste-land where the larval foodplant occurs (6).

Fisher's Estuarine is a single-brooded moth. Active at night, adults can be found flying around or resting upon the foodplant (2), hog's fennel (Peucedanum officinale) in September and October (3). The overwintering stage is the egg, and caterpillars are present from June to August; they initially feed in the stems of the foodplant, but as they develop they then move to feed on the roots (2).

The threats facing this species include changes in land use, such as agricultural intensification. The foodplant is also a local species (3).

Fisher's Estuarine Moth occurs in one National Nature Reserve, and so receives a degree of protection at that site. It is also fully protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981; it is illegal to intentionally kill, injure, take or sell this moth, or to damage or destroy its habitat under this act (7). The species is also included in English Nature's Species Recovery Programme.

For more on English Nature's Species Recovery Programme see:
http://www.english-nature.org.uk/science/srp/default.asp
Further reading on moths:
Leverton, R. (2001) Enjoying moths. Poyser, London.
Skinner, B. (1984) Colour identification guide to moths of the British Isles. Viking, London.

Information authenticated by Sean Clancy.

  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (September 2002) http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nbn/
  2. Skinner, B. (1984) Colour identification guide to moths of the British Isles. Viking, London.
  3. Shirt, D. B. (Ed). (1987) British Red Data Books: 2. Insects. Nature Conservancy Council, Peterborough.
  4. The Environment Agency. (1998). Species and Habitats Handbook: 'look-up' chart of species and their legal status. The Environment Agency, Bristol.
  5. Personal observation from ARKive images.
  6. Clancy, S. (2003) Pers. comm.
  7. JNCC. The Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. (September 2002): http://www.jncc.gov.uk/species/Legislation/protect/default.htm