Friday, 14 October 2016

Touch-Me-Not Balsam and Netted Carpet Moth Conservation with Windermere School

St. Catherine's is an important site for scarce annual touch me not balsam plants. It is the UK's only native balsam, with the Lake District being its principal stronghold.
One of the rarest moths in the UK, the netted carpet moth, is totally reliant upon touch me not as it is the only food source for its caterpillars.
Unlike its relative, the highly invasive himalayan balsam (see above), touch me not is incredibly...if not... annoyingly fussy about its growing conditions! It likes nutrient rich soil in damp open woodland with just the right mixture of sun and shade. It is also very bad at competing with other plant species so it tends to opportunistically colonise bare or disturbed ground where it is sometimes able to form dense stands.
Nettles, creeping buttercup, and brambles overwhelmed some of the touch me not stands at St. Catherine's last Summer, so to give the plant a boost for next year, hopefully with a corresponding increase in moth numbers, a more intensive conservation programme has been initiated.
Students from Windermere School have been most helpful in pulling up nettles, brambles and disturbing the ground.
Incidentally, in NT Coniston woodlands, cattle have been instrumental in increasing the plant numbers hence moths by poaching the ground most effectively during Autumn and Winter months..sadly not an option at St. Catherine's!
Forks have proved useful in digging over the ground; the aim is for the touch me not seeds to germinate more readily and establish dense stands in Spring with the competition from other plants largely eradicated from this area.
Mrs Julie King, Director of student pathways and careers at Windermere School also helped with the conservation work... seen here getting to grips with a deep rooted bramble!
These images of the netted carpet moth were taken by Richard Dennison during a 'Moth Night' at St. Catherine's... late July 2016; he kindly gave permission for them to be used on this blog-site..
..Excellent images of moths on touch me not Balsam.

More conservation work will be undertaken at St. Catherine's right up until late March or until the first touch me not seedlings are spotted! 

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