Thursday, 14 July 2016

Euro 2016 moths take wing from Paris and head to Britain

Thousands of Silver Y moths, like those that pestered Ronaldo during the Euro 2016 final, headed for UK shores

Wednesday 13 July 201623.55 BSTLast modified on Thursday 14 July 201608.52 BST

Last seen swarming the Stade de France in Paris, the moths that flapped around the injured Cristiano Ronaldo during the Euro 2016 final are on their way to Britain.

Thousands of the Silver Y moths – Autographa gamma – are winging their way from the continent to Britain, and while they will not match the many millions that swarmed as far north as Shetland in 1996, experts are predicting a strong year. “It’s looking like it’s going to be an above average year, providing the conditions are right and there’s a southerly wind,” said Zoe Randle, a surveys officer at the charity Butterfly Conservation.

The species is relatively unremarkable to look at, no threat to woolly jumpers and no serious risk to crops as its caterpillars eat a variety of plants, but it does make an incredible migratory journey.

A study by Rothamsted Research using radar found that the 2cm-long moths use winds to blast across the sea at speeds of up to 60mph, or as much as six times faster than their own flight speed. They select the altitude where the wind speeds are fastest – 200-1,000 metres above ground – and can travel up to 250 miles in one night.

“It’s cool that something so small can travel such long distances at such great speeds. It’s pretty remarkable,” said Randle.

The species, which takes its name from the silver Y-shapes on its wings, is among the top 20 being counted in the Big Butterfly Count, a citizen science survey which starts across the UK tomorrow.

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