Re-wilding success: Dusky clearwing moth seen at Tubney

July 3, 2023

Not all charismatic species are large and dangerous. The dusky clearwing (Paranthrene tabiformis) is an unusual moth which until 2021 was thought to be extinct in the UK. A handful have since been seen in southern England.  After an interval of almost a hundred years, a single male was recorded at Tubney landscape on Sunday 25th June.

The clearwings fly by day and are easily mistaken for hymenoptera: like others of its kind they have distinct banding – in this species the yellow and black pattern is striking. The clearwings are so named because unlike almost all moths they have clear wings. The dusky clearwing is unusual among clearwings in not having clear wings.

Since the species was rediscovered in Warwickshire in 2021, a handful of specimens have been recorded in the UK. The so far single Tubney male joins these in the de-extinction of  this ‘Lazarus’ species. It’s possible these moths have been around all the time – the recent availability of synthetic pheremone lures, which mimic female hormones to attract males into a (harmless) trap, is showing several clearwing species to be more widespread than was previously thought. It was using such a trap that the new specimen was captured.

While the moth may have been here all the time, we can speculate with some justification that the re-wilding of the Tubney grounds has helped it to thrive. The removal of grazing in 2021 has seen a proliferation of the larval food plants (Aspen and Poplar).

The trap was put in place by a long-term collaborator of the WildCRU, Martin Townsend, who is the County Moth Recorder and author of the definitive Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland (BWP).

  • ©Martin Townsend
  • Rewilding point at Tubney where the larval food plant is abundant. © Amanda Adams