Adult male belted beauty
moths are winged and can be found during the spring flying in
the day and at night. Females, however, have tiny (2mm) wings
that are useless for flight. They are only able to crawl very
short distances during their adult life (1).
Despite the poor dispersal
powers of the female, the species is fairly widespread in Europe
from as far east as Armenia and as far south as the Alps.
However, it is found predominantly
in north-western Europe, although its numbers have declined in
several countries. The sub-species Lycia zonaria brittannica
is endemic to the UK.
In Britain, the belted
beauty is confined to coastal grasslands. English populations
occur in early successional, sparsely-grassed sand dunes rather
than the more grassy dunes favoured by the Welsh and some Scottish
The male belted beauty
is on the wing in March and April and is attracted to the largely
sedentary female probably by scent. Mated females crawl through
the vegetation laying eggs on a variety of different plants (2,3).
In Lancashire, it is
believed that the caterpillars emerge and begin to feed in May
and June. They mainly eat bird’s-foot trefoil and kidney vetch
preferring the flowers of these plants to the leaves. Other plants
used in North West England are plantains, clovers, yarrow, burnet
rose and creeping willow. The caterpillars burrow into soft dry
sand to pupate in summer, emerging the following year. Some caterpillars
are thought to be able to delay emergence for a further year if
weather conditions are not suitable.
Main Habitat (s):
Early successional sand dunes.
In Britain the belted
beauty occurs in coastal locations in western Scotland, northern
Wales and North West England.
There are two sub-species,
the English/Welsh populations are Lycia zonaria britannica
and the Scottish populations are mainly Lycia zonaria atlantica.
The sub-species britannica is found at Meols on the Wirral
and Morfa Conwy, Caernarvonshire (4) and has been recorded
recently at one site in Lancashire.
The English/Welsh sub-species
has declined markedly due to loss of habitat. It is included in
the British Red Data Book (RDB3 – rare) and is the focus
of a Plan in the UK BAP (5).
There are pre-1915 records
from the Sefton Coast for this species and in April 2000 two females
were found in the Ainsdale Dunes (11).
The continued presence
of a colony on the Wirral in Cheshire was confirmed in 2000 (11).
are also records for the moth in Lancashire as described below.
The only known recent
Lancashire locality is the area around Sunderland Point and Potts
Corner. There are four records for the species at Sunderland Point,
Lancashire in 1975, 1982, and 1985 (7). There is also
a report of a caterpillar seen at Potts Corner in 1993 (8).
The site of the 1980s
records is within the Lune Estuary SSSI (9).
Current factors affecting
In England at least,
Lycia zonaria britannica is a moth of early, less stable,
mossy dunes and, for this reason, it is very vulnerable to successional
changes in vegetation. Despite searches, there have been no records
at Sunderland Point/Potts Corner since 1993. The habitat at Potts
Corner is considered still suitable (Rigby, pers comm.).
There is some question as to whether the habitat in the area of
Sunderland Point is still capable of supporting the species. According
to at least one local botanist, however, the habitat in the area
around the Point "has not changed much" since
the moth was last recorded (11).
The natural processes
of dune formation would normally ensure that as suitable habitat
was lost new potential habitat would also be created. At Sunderland
Point the natural movement of the sand and shingle bar will eventually
shift the Point. The dune habitat cannot move inland without loss
of agricultural land. Furthermore, a caravan site abutting the
adjacent Potts Corner site reduces the ability of this site to
shift naturally in response to coastal dynamics.
The poor dispersal ability
of the species coupled with the isolation of its colonies minimises
its ability to colonise or re-colonise suitable areas.
Pressure from trampling
on sensitive dune systems is identified in the UK BAP as a potential
threat to this species.
Current Action /
There is a UK BAP Species
Action Plan for the species and Butterfly Conservation have produced
a Regional Action Plan that includes this moth (4).
conducted a regional survey in 2000 to identify potential habitat
for the species. Twenty potential sites were surveyed in Lancashire,
Cheshire and Cumbria. Five of these were in Lancashire. Three
sites that were considered to be suitable for the species were
identified: Potts Corner; around Rossall Point and a stretch of
are being adopted in experimental plots at the site on the Wirral
to determine the best way to manage vegetation for the belted
beauty. There was an unsuccessful re-introduction attempt close
to the existing Wirral population in 1994. The failure was thought
to be due to wetter soil conditions at the receptor sites (4).
Annual monitoring for
the moth takes place at the Wirral and north Wales sites
(4). The Lancashire Moth Group undertook searches for the
moth at Sunderland Point and on the Sefton coast in spring 2000
English Nature has made
funds available to Butterfly Conservation for travel expenses
incurred in specific studies of UK Priority moth species
and proposed actions for belted beauty in Lancashire
the status of belted beauty in Lancashire by 2005
1. Confirm the
status at Sunderland Point.
monitoring for adults and larvae at Sunderland Point.
2. Confirm its
status elsewhere in Lancashire.
1. Monitor for
the species at the potential Lytham and Rossall sites
identified in the 2000 regional survey, investigating
both for adults and caterpillars. (High)
re-establishment of the belted beauty in Lancashire
feasibility study on the introduction/re-introduction
of the species in the county
re-introduction of Lycia zonaria britannica at
historical sites (Medium).
introduction of Lycia zonaria britannica at other
sites with suitable habitat in the county (Low).
Links to other Action
Plans: Sand Dune HAP
1. Young, M (1997) The
Natural History of Moths. Poyser Natural History. London.
2. Emmet, A. M. and
Heath, J. (Eds) (1992) The Moths and Butterflies of Great Britain
and Ireland . Volume 7, Part 2. Harley Books. Colchester.
3. Skinner, B. (1998) The Colour
Identification Guide to Moths of the British Isles. Second
Edition. Viking. London. Pp61, Plate 14.
4. Ellis S. & Bourn, N. (2000)
Regional Action Plan North West England. 2nd Edition. Butterfly
Conservation, Wareham, Dorset.
5. UK Biodiversity Steering
Group Tranche Two Action Plans Volume VI The Stationary
Office. pp91 – 92
6. Mansbridge, W. (1940) The
Lepidopterous Fauna of Lancashire and Cheshire. A Revision
of the Ellis list of 1890. The Lancashire & Cheshire
7. Creaser, A (1976) Lancashire
and Cheshire Fauna Soc. 69: 11- 14.
8. Palmer S. BAP ‘Biodiversity
Action Plan’ species The Way Forward. Lancashire Moths. Newsletter
Issue 2, pp 6-7.
9. English Nature (1990) Lune
Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest notification.
10.Kimpton, A. (2000) A report
on possible sites for the Belted Beauty Moth (Lycia zonaria
britannica Harrison) in the north west of England. Butterfly
Conservation Report No. S00-18. Butterfly Conservation,
11. Palmer S. The Belted Beauty.
Lancashire Moths. Newsletter Issue 2, Summer 2000, p1.