This species is easily recognised by the large white spots on the forewings, referred to by both the common and scientific names (albimacula derives from the Latin 'albico'- to be white and 'macula'- spot). The hindwings are brown in colour, becoming darker towards the edge (3).
This species is usually single-brooded; the adults are active between mid-May and July, but there is some evidence of a second brood (4). The caterpillars feed on the seed capsules of the Nottingham catchfly (2) between July and August and the overwintering stage is the pupa(1). The foodplant has sticky stems, hence the common name 'catchfly' (5), and once grew in abundance on the walls of Nottingham Castle and the surrounding castle rock (5). It was first given its present name in 1770 (5), and is currently widespread but local and grows on shingle or rocky cliffs with sparse soil (6).
Populations of the white spot moth are currently known in Dungeness in Kent, near Gosport in Hampshire, and on the south coast of Devon. Over the last 25 years, the range of the species in Devon has declined to a great extent. Although it could be described as 'abundant' in Dungeness (4), all current populations are vulnerable. The species is known from most European countries (2).
The white spot moth is limited by the availability of its foodplant, Nottingham catchfly, which is scarce. Recreation by humans, coastal development, coastal defence work and commercial-scale extraction of shingle, gravel and sand have all put this species under pressure (2).
The white spot moth is a UK BAP (Biodiversity Action Plan) priority species. The plan aims to maintain the present populations by considering the species with habitat action plans for coastal vegetated shingle and maritime cliffs and slopes. A regular monitoring programme has been proposed, furthermore Dungeness is a candidate SAC (Special Area of Conservation) (2).
The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.
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