With the help of a team of volunteers, experts from the zoo and the Canal & River Trust will begin the task of planting hundreds of once common hedgerow plants in an effort to save a native endangered species – the barberry carpet moth.
Once widespread throughout the UK, the moth can now only be found in small pockets after both the moth and its main source of food – the barberry plant berberis vulgaris – went into decline.
Barberry bushes will be planted within the existing hedgerow along the Shropshire Union canal towpaths, linking Chester, Twycross and Dudley zoos. We hope that the moth population will then increase and use the canal network as a wildlife corridor helping it to spread further afield.
Threatened moth species
Horticulturists at Chester will grow 500 plants a year in their greenhouses for planting, with the whole project expected to take a number of years.
Chester's curator of Botany and Horticulture, Mark Sparrow, said: “It may seem that we're going to extreme lengths to protect a moth but the barberry carpet moth is one of Britain's 10 rarest and most threatened moth species.
“Native species of all kinds are important to UK biodiversity and a moth is no different. We need to be providing the right amounts sort of food for the moths so we grow the plants at the zoo where there's plenty of space before they are mature enough to be planted out.”
The berberis will be planted every 100 metres along towpaths connecting the three zoos with the planting team hoping to cover 20km during the first year of the project. The work is being coordinated by our volunteer leader, Glenn Young.