Flanders Moss NNR
At this time each year I normally do a transect count to monitor one of Flanders specialist insects – the Rannoch brindled beauty. This is a moth but not as you know it. The male is fairly conventional, having wings and using them, but the female has decided that instead of flying around she will just sit on a fence post, pump out irresistible smells (to a male RBB anyway) and wait for him to turn up. As she doesn’t move around much but sits still in early spring when it can be pretty cold she wears a very fluffy coat that gives her the appearance of a bit of belly button fluff (well mine anyway). This sitting around makes her very easy to count, you just have to walk along a fenceline and check each post as she climbs these to better disperse her scent.
The Rannoch brindled beauty has a restricted distribution and, though a stronghold, Flanders Moss is the most southerly site where it is found in the UK. With a changing climate it might mean that these rather fabulous moths maybe under threat at Flanders. Also the vegetation of the moss is also changing. In recent years the very high number of red deer have been munching down the heather and surface plants and this also could be having an effect on the moth population as it is the heather that the caterpillers feed on. This makes it all the more important to monitor what is happening with the Rannoch brindled beauty on Flanders.
So I was very glad that Mark Wilson, an ecologist living close by the Flanders, was able to get down to the moss on his daily exercise and do a count along the fence line. And he found some, not many but some, and so though we can’t get out on site it is good to know that the Rannoch brindled beauties are still doing what they need to do at Flanders.Till next year.