Scarce merveille du jour moth (Moma alpium)

GenusMoma (1)
SizeWingspan: 3.2- 4.0 cm (1)

Classified as Rare in Great Britain (2).

The Scarce Merveille du Jour is an attractive moth, which has green coloured forewings with white and black patches; the hind-wings are a dusky grey colour with white patches towards the lower edge (3). The caterpillar is black with yellow or white blotches, and tufts of white or brown hairs protruding from reddish warts (3).

Strongholds exist in Wiltshire, Hampshire and West Sussex. In addition, some colonies occur in East Sussex, Cornwall, Devon and Kent, but it seems that the species has become locally extinct in Suffolk and Essex (2). Elsewhere, this moth has a wide European distribution, and reaches north into Sweden (2).

This moth is mainly associated with mature pedunculate and sessile oak trees (Quercus robur and Q. petraea) in semi-natural ancient woodlands within a range of 80 km of the coast (2).

The Scarce Merveille du Jour is single-brooded(1); the adults fly at night (3) between early June and mid-July. The caterpillars feed on oak and are active between July and early September, and the pupal stage overwinters amongst the leaf litter (1).

Main factors contributing to the decline of this species include the clearance of oak woodlands and inappropriate woodland management, in which mature oaks are not replaced (2).

A Species Action Plan has been produced for this moth under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP). This aims to maintain the range of the Scarce Merveille du Jour. One occupied site is a candidate Special Area for Conservation (SAC), and one is a National Nature Reserve (NNR). A programme of monitoring has been proposed, and conservation action taken for the Light Crimson Underwing (Catocala promissa) and the Dark Crimson Underwing (Catocala sponsa), which inhabit lowland oak woodlands, may benefit the Scarce Merveille du Jour (2).

Further reading on moths:
Leverton, R. (2001) Enjoying Moths. Poyser, London.
Skinner, B. (1984) Moths of the British Isles. Penguin Books, Harmondsworth
Young, M. (1997) The Natural History of Moths. Poyser, London.

Information authenticated by Butterfly Conservation:

  1. Skinner, B. (1984) Colour Identification Guide to Moths of the British Isles. Viking Press, London.
  2. UK BAP Species Action Plan (December 2001):
  3. South, R. (1961) The moths of the British Isles. Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd., London.