Many moths are rare or threatened in the UK. Some have already become extinct here and others occur on only a single site or have undergone large declines in their populations and distributions over recent decades.
All is not lost, however, even for the rarest or most threatened moths. There are an increasing number of examples of species saved by conservation action in the UK.
The New Forest Burnet, for example, survives at a single UK site, in western Scotland. The colony had declined severely until, in 1990, the total British population was estimated to be only 20 individuals and seemed doomed to extinction. However, the simple conservation action of installing fencing reduced sheep grazing on the site and led to a spectacular recovery. In 2003, over 8,500 New Forest Burnet moths were flying at the site.
A lack of detailed knowledge about what some moths need is a real problem for conservation. In the case of the Fisher's Estuarine Moth, a rare moth of coastal grassland in south-east England, years of intensive study into the ecological requirements and life history of the species were required prior to any conservation action being taken. Such research led to the creation of new breeding habitat for the moth and then to the establishment of new colonies. With more colonies, spread over a wider area and further away from threats posed by rising sea levels, the moth now has a more secure long-term future.
Other successful examples of moth conservation include the Netted Carpet in the Lake District, Barberry Carpet in southern England and Black-veined Moth in Kent.