A rare moth which hasn’t appeared in Sussex for nearly 20 years has been discovered in Newhaven.
Staff from Lewes District Council found an Oleander Hawk Moth at Newhaven Fort which has sent ripples of excitement through the community of wildlife enthusiasts.
This huge beautifully patterned creature is nearly the size of a small bird and is likely to have originated from southern Europe from an egg laid by an African moth.
“Castle Hill Local Nature Reserve, which surrounds the Fort, often attracts migrants from the continent – birds, butterflies and moths – but this is the rarest and most exciting creature that has been found here,” said Thyone Outram, Lewes District Council ranger .
Steven Teale, a Lepidopterist and member of the Castle Hill Group, has been surveying the area for the past five years and has found more than 300 species of butterflies and moths on the Nature Reserve.
He said: “I never expected to see an Oleander Hawk Moth in my lifetime but I always hoped that I would.
“The moth has a wingspan of up to 13cm and its size and markings make it one of the most spectacular insects seen in the UK.
“It is such an exciting find that naturalists from other parts of Britain have been contacting me all day to ask about it.”
The first record of the species in Sussex dates back to 1852 and it has been seen and recorded on only 26 occasions in the county before the Newhaven Oleander was seen.
In its native land, the moth feeds on Oleander and periwinkle, but the British climate is too cool for it to survive here and sadly the moth died a few days after it was first spotted.
There are plans to preserve it and it has been offered to the Booth Museum of Natural History in Brighton to add to their collection, for future generations to see.
The Oleander Hawk-moth is a resident in northern Africa and some Mediterranean islands including Sicily, Crete and Cyprus.
Lewes District Council rangers and Steve Teale will be inviting the public to come and join them one night next summer at Castle Hill Local Nature Reserve in Fort Road, Newhaven, for a session trapping and watching moths.
For more information about the events coming up at the nature reserve next to Newhaven Fort visit: www.lewes.gov.uk in 2015.