Action for Invertebrates

Action for Invertebrates

A Staffordshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve is getting a “Great Big Nature Boost” thanks to funding from Severn Trent.

Gentleshaw Common, near Rugeley, has received the £1,500 funding as part of the ‘Action for Invertebrates’ project which covers the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The Great Big Nature Boost funding will allow the Trust to carry out vital invertebrate surveys across Cannock Chase and carry out some exciting conservation work at places like Gentleshaw Common, one of the charity’s 31 nature reserves across Staffordshire.

The Trust’s volunteer work party carried out a clear wing survey at the site in June as part of the project. The party looked for the Welsh clearwing – a type of moth which flies in the day but is rarely seen. The Welsh clearwing is a type of moth, quite large in size and flies during the day but is hardly seen. The best way to look for this stunning clearwing is to look for 5mm-diameter holes on birch trunks, which are made by the moth as it emerges from the pupal cocoon located beneath the bark. Once possible Welsh clearwing holes were identified on birch trees.

Trust staff used a pheromone to lure the clearwing in. The lure was only out for 30 seconds before a clearwing entered the trap. Once caught, pictures were taken so the identification could be confirmed, a grid reference was recorded and then it was released.

Hayley Dorrington, Senior Heathlands Officer for the Trust, said: “In Staffordshire, the Welsh clearwing is currently only found on Cannock Chase, so we wanted to find out if it was at Gentleshaw Common as well.

“The site has plenty of mature silver birch, perfect for the clearwings to burrow into. I couldn’t quite believe it when we found one. It is a first to be found on Gentleshaw Common. It is a red data book species and a priority species in Wales. Now we know the Welsh clearwing is at Gentleshaw Common, we can look at different management techniques to improve the heathland habitat for this rare, beautiful clearwing.”

Zara Frankton, senior biodiversity coordinator at Severn Trent, said: “This is a fantastic project, which we’re proud to support through our Great Big Nature Boost scheme. We’re excited by the Trust’s ambitious plans to help invertebrates thrive across Cannock Chase and improve habitat at other nature reserves throughout the county. Conservation work has the potential to make a real difference for us, because when we look after nature, we look after water too.”

Later in the year, Trust will be using the Great Big Nature Boost fund to create some sandy scrapes on Gentleshaw Common. This will improve the heathland habitat for the solitary bees and wasps that live there, as well as other invertebrates. The solitary bees and wasps need sandy, bare ground to burrow into, so they can lay their eggs. The monitoring that will be taking place is a vital part of the management to ensure that the work being carried out is improving the habitat for the invertebrates and will continue to do for future years.