Lancashire Times
A Voice of the North
3:21 PM 25th July 2021

Heatwave Sees Moorland Buzzing With Crucial Bugs

The heatwave which is continuing across most of the country may have us wishing for the beach but in Nidderdale the moors are alive with creepy-crawlies which are important pollinators and a crucial part of the food chain.

Emperor Moth
Emperor Moth
Grouse moors provide valuable habitats for a wide range of bugs, with 77 species of invertebrates thriving on heather-dominated habitats, of which 32 species are known to depend on heather for their survival.

The emperor moth, fox moth, true lovers’ knot moth and the beautiful yellow underwing moth are among the species that depend on heather for their survival. Other species that live in heather-dominated habitats include the large heath butterfly and the silver-studded blue butterfly, as well as several species of bumblebee.

Small Copper Butterfly
Small Copper Butterfly
Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, said:
“Moorland managed for grouse provides a mosaic of habitats supporting many species of wildlife. The flies, moths, beetles and butterflies are not often celebrated, but they are an important part of the ecosystem and crucial to much-loved birds such as curlew, meadow pipit and golden plover. The peatland restoration work, rewetting and bracken removal conducted by land managers is highly beneficial for invertebrates.

“If left to their own devices, moorlands would revert to a poor state, with excessive encroachment of scrub, bracken and coarse grasses. This would lead to a loss of heathland invertebrate communities, with a subsequent impact on many species of birds. By maintaining heathland habitats, grouse moors provide a significant boost to UK biodiversity.”

In addition to heather, grouse moors offer a wide diversity of other habitats which are rich in invertebrates – from blanket bog and wet peat to streams and pools, carpets of sphagnum and other mosses, open grassland, woodland and rocky habitats.

Green-veined White Butterfly
Green-veined White Butterfly
Insects are a vital part of the moorland food chain. Craneflies form a major part of the diet of the chicks of many moorland birds, including red grouse. Birds such as curlews, redshank and meadow pipit all depend on the insects and aquatic invertebrates that thrive in these boggy and varied upland habitats.

Researchers from Kew Royal Botanic Gardens and Royal Holloway, University of London, investigated plants for medicinal properties that could protect pollinators from disease. Bumblebees were found to benefit from heather nectar more than the nectar of any other plant. The chemical callunene, found in heather, protects bees from a harmful parasite.

Photos Nidderdale Moorland Group