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North Merseyside Biodiversity Action Plan
Sandhill Rustic Moth Luperina nickerlii gueneei
1 Current status
This sub-species of the Sandhill Rustic Moth is confined to sand dune systems in North Wales and North-West England. Other sub-species - all coastal but with varying habitat requirements - occur in Cornwall (ssp. leechi), South-West Ireland (ssp. knilli) and Essex/Kent (ssp. demuthi). The Red Data Book lists ssp. leechi as Endangered and ssp. gueneei as Vulnerable (Shirt 1987).
Known extant colonies of ssp. gueneei outside of Lancashire/North Merseyside are West Kirby/Hoylake (Wirral), Talacre/Gronant Flintshire/Denbighshire), Kinmel Bay (Denbighshire), Conwy/Deganwy (Conwy) and Maltraeth/Newborough Point (Anglesey) (Wallace 2008). There are Species Action Plans for Sandhill Rustic in the local BAPs for Wirral (Cheshire), Flintshire, Denbighshire and Conwy (as well as
North Merseyside). The Sandhill Rustic is a named ‘interest feature’ of the Dee Estuary SSSI and Gronant Dunes & Talacre Warren SSSI (as well as the Sefton Coast SSSI).
The moth’s natural rarity is the result of highly specialised habitat requirements. Ssp. gueneei lays eggs in late summer on Sand Couch - the only known food plant of the caterpillars of this sub-species. For the most part, it seems that plants which are lapped by the highest tides are favoured.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries (until 1916), the moth was regularly recorded at St. Annes in Lancashire. There is also strong anecdotal evidence that the colony was extant in the1970s. The last record dates to 1987. Recent searches have failed to locate the moth there.
On Merseyside a single 19th century record for Southport is complemented by several records from Formby in the late 20th century. The last Formby record was made in 1987. Between 1997 and 2003 the moth was recorded on the frontal dunes at Altcar Rifle Range, but only in low numbers. Searches in 2004 and 2007 failed to produce any records of the moth there. This evidence and an apparent deterioration in the habitat (probably due to tidal erosion) suggest that this colony may no longer be extant.
In 2007 a new colony was located at Birkdale Green Beach on the Sefton Coast. Despite a relatively limited search effort, this site produced 16 new records for the moth and there is every indication that there is a substantial colony there.