Every Friday morning, since March 2018, a small group of volunteers have been in the Garden at the crack of dawn, checking a light trap, situated near the Glasshouse Range, for moths caught overnight. Recently the group has been joined by some enthusiastic students from Cambridge University and Anglia Ruskin University, all interested in learning more about moths, their ecology and food plants, and how to identify them. The moths caught in the trap are identified, recorded and then released.
The Garden has proven very productive for moths, sometimes more than 100 individuals are caught in one night with over 2375 individuals caught overall to date.
In total 239 species have been caught so far, making the Botanic Garden one of the most diverse areas for moths in Cambridge
The moth trapping in the garden forms part of a national moth monitoring scheme called the Garden Moth Scheme and is one of three moth trapping locations in Cambridge. The list of moths recorded in the Garden is added to a number of local and national databases. These databases can then be used by research scientists to understand changes in moth populations over time, impacts of climate change and to make assessments about ecosystem health.
A new student practical for the Evolution and Animal Diversity course run by the Department of Zoology has also benefitted from the moth trapping in the Garden. Students on this course have attended a number of the moth trapping sessions to observe the moths in the wild and understand how they are surveyed. A number of moths were collected during these sessions for genetic analysis. Students will investigate the prevalence and diversity of the moth Wolbachia parasite across the different moth species caught. Wolbachia is a genus of bacteria that infects moths (and many other arthropod species) causing sex-ratio distortions by killing males, with obvious potential impacts on populations.
There are also plans afoot to develop other wildlife monitoring programmes in the Garden in the near future. The species to be monitored will be chosen based on their ability to provide useful information on the impacts of climate change, pollution, urbanisation etc., as well as the role that the Cambridge University Botanic Garden can play as a wildlife refuge in the City.
On the weekend of 27-28 April 2019, we will be running a large Bioblitz event in collaboration with the Zoology Museum. The Bioblitz will aim to engage the public with wildlife in the Garden and the many methods scientists use to survey for different species. We hope to have experts on a wide range of species groups on hand to help identify species caught, and to enthuse the public about the rich diversity of species that the Botanic Garden landscape supports. The species records obtained will be added to local and national species databases to inform management and conservation and our understanding of our City’s natural history.