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The New Forest has an estimated 1,460 kinds of moths, 58% of Britain’s 2,500 species.

An impressive range of uncommon species is included. In several cases they are only found in the Forest, which ranks as one of the top areas in the country with lepidopterists (those who study butterflies and moths).

Almost 900 are macro moths; the other smaller micro moths are not studied by some enthusiasts, but are gaining in popularity.

Moths are an important part of the New Forest’s biodiversity – and they provide a food source for many predators including bats, birds and spiders.

Many people run moth lights to attract moths and send in records to organisations such as Butterfly Conservation. While there is no problem running one in a garden, permission is needed from Forestry England if moth-trapping on Crown land. Why not join in Moth Night at the end of August each year and record your sightings?

Although some moths fly in the day time, many people notice large moths at night, even if they do not know what they are. Or they observe large caterpillars in their gardens, or while out walking.

There are moths in all Forest habitats, with specialities which only live on heathlands, such as our only silk moth, the spectacular emperor moth. The woodlands are strongholds for other species, including the rare crimson underwing. Many moths live in the New Forest because the habitat management is right for them and because their preferred larval food is available.

Moths lay eggs that hatch into caterpillars (larvae), which are mostly plant feeders. The larva forms a pupa (sometimes within a cocoon), before the adult emerges.

Here we look at a few rare species that have a particular stronghold in the New Forest and some of the common species that you are most likely to see.

Reference: Brock, Paul D. 2011. A Photographic Guide to Insects of the New Forest and Surrounding Area. Pisces Publications, Newbury.

Photo: Chris Piper

Lead Ranger


'To help ground nesting birds rear their young safely, keep yourself, dogs and ridden horses on the main tracks from the beginning of March to the end of August.'

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