One of Britain’s most beautiful, and rarest, moths seems to be colonising Tower Hamlets. At least ten Jersey Tiger moths have been seen in the borough during August 2011. The first one ever recorded at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park was seen on 12th (see photo below left), there was another in Hermitage Gardens the same day, and no less than seven were caught in a moth trap in a garden on the Isle of Dogs that evening before being released unharmed. Another was found in Poplar High Street on 14th.
With its tiger-striped forewings and bright scarlet hind wings, this is a very striking moth. It is one of the few moths that regularly flies both by day and at night. During the day, it might easily be mistaken for a butterfly. It likes gardens, parks and waste ground – anywhere there are flowers to provide nectar.
Until the late 1990s, the Jersey Tiger was resident in Britain only in south Devon, turning up occasionally elsewhere as a migrant from the Continent. Then around the turn of the century, several Jersey Tigers appeared on a railside in Brockley, just north of Lewisham. No-one seems sure whether this was the result of natural migration or if somebody released some moths, but the colony thrived and has slowly expanded towards other areas of London. Now this lovely moth is being seen in Tower hamlets, so let’s hope it’s here to stay. Look out for it in parks and gardens near you, and please e-mail the Biodiversity Officer if you see one in Tower Hamlets.
Header photo by John Archer