Season (Adult / Immature):
National Status: Migrant
Local Status: Rare and restricted resident (mapped to 10km only).
Local Record: Grade 4 See here for explanation
Flight time: Jun-Jul.
Foodplant: Herbaceous plants.
|Year first recorded||1886||1897||1886|
|Year last recorded||2010||1898||2010|
|Number of records||133||2||270|
|Number of individuals||311||4||630|
For the region, we have a total of 270 records from 18 sites. Earliest record on file is in 1886.
For further information refer UK Moths.
Davey, P., 2009: A declining species, formerly restricted to Hampshire and Dorset heathland but last seen in the former county during the 1960s, the larval foodplant is unknown. In Dorset, the species has declined to the point of extinction. At the present time the moth is holding on precariously in four sites on sandy soil. "At one time locally common, but now local and retrogressive; its habitats are very rapidly disappearing. Apart from what is left of the trough of Poole, the heathland untouched by man is very few acres indeed, so the insect is disappearing." (W Parkinson Curtis ms). The larva has rarely been seen in the wild, but current understanding suggests that it hatches from the ovum in August and hibernates whilst small within grass tussocks in well aerated situations, reappearing on sunny days in late winter and early spring to sun itself. Fine-leaved grasses such as bristle bent (Agrostis curtisii) are likely to be a primary and potentially critical food source for the larva at least when young; later the diet may also includes heather (Calluna vulgaris). The larva is fully-grown in June and is said to pupate in a flimsy silken cocoon amongst grass or heather. The male comes readily to light, however the female exhibits little or no inclination to fly and can be located by torchlight sitting on heather sprigs; on damp nights, males may also be located in this way. This reluctance to fly evidently reduces the opportunity for females to move into and populate new discrete sites. Adults have been found as early as May, but most frequently during July, and occasionally in early August.
An insight into the strength of colonies in the past is given by the following diary entry (Eulepia cribrum = Coscinea cribraria). "Went by 7:45 train to Ringwood to try my luck in the former locality for E. cribrum, in spite of many assurances that it had without doubt been utterly exterminated there by a large heath fire some few years ago. Walked about three and a half or four miles along the Wimborne road to a house which used to be "St Leonard's pub", and tried the heath exactly opposite. Nothing taken on bare heath, but on other side where there are some small firs, I soon met with cribrum which was easily disturbed and flew very briskly in the hot sunshine with a good strong breeze behind it. They evidently hide-away in afternoon at about 2pm and retire to roost, often in the fir trees, as I beat out several from them. By dint of really hard work in the broiling sun both all morning and afternoon I bagged 18 fine cribrum (all males) and lost several more owing to the wind and their eccentric zigzag flight which begins by their mounting almost straight into the air. At dusk I netted a couple more on the wing of their own accord and flying low and more slowly over the heath. Made a night of it without going to bed, but lay down in a cottage and was on the heath by 2:45am as cribrum flies well at sunrise, but as ill luck has it the sky was entirely overcast and heavy rain began at 3:30, when many moths were just coming on flight: saw no cribrum. Had a very wet tramp back to Ringwood Station to catch 7:35 train homewards. West Moors is much nearer the cribrum locality - only 2 miles away: would I had known it sooner!" (Reverend E Bankes, 1890).
Likely reasons for the decline of the Speckled Footman include:
- Reduction in heathland.
- Increased fragmentation of heathland.
- Reduced use, disturbance and therefore regeneration of heathland, especially the reluctance to use fire as a heathland management tool.
- Reduced habitat containing primary host foodplants.
- Increased acreage of unmanaged, derelict heather within remaining heathland blocks, often within existing SSSIs, and thus increased levels of humus, damp and mould.
- Creation of habitat corridors to link heathland fragments.
- Protection for the Speckled Footman under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, to make it illegal to collect or disturb it in any of its stages.
- Controlled and intense burning within heathland blocks during summer dry spells to remove humus-clogged derelict heather, to promote subsequent invasion of bristle bent plants and the creation of vibrant different-aged heathland plant communities.
- Light trapping to locate additional colonies of the species at bristle bent bearing sites.
- Year on year monitoring of existing colonies to assess colony strength.