In 2001, in an amazing book, The Diversity of Life, Edward O. Wilson put forward a grand plan to protect the world's biodiversity the first stage of which involved doing a comprehensive survey of the world's flora and fauna. He accepted that this was a big but finite job and estimated it would take about 50,000 professional lifetimes over a period of 50 years. He didn't factor in the possibility of harnessing the networking power of the Web. Doug explains the discovery of the new moth:
Katie Robbins, a six-year-old living near Newbury, spotted an interesting moth on a windowsill. She and her Dad couldn’t identify what it was, so her Dad put a picture of it on iSpot, the nature identification website produced by the OU as part of the OPAL project, funded by the Big Lottery Fund. (I’m leading the development of the iSpot website.)
Martin Harvey, one of the resident nature experts on iSpot, saw it and thought it was an exciting rare find, and got the identification confirmed by the Natural History Museum.
It turns out that the moth was the Euonymus Leaf-notcher, Pryeria sinica, and it had never been seen before in Britain. It’s native to Asia, and has turned up in the last decade or so in North America as an invasive pest. Its larvae eat Euonymus shrubs (known variously as Spindle bushes, Spindles, and Burning bushes), which are widely planted in gardens. Martin Harvey’s blog post mentions that the Euonymus Leaf-notcher was observed in Spain last June, in the only other known siting in Europe (so far!).
This is really exciting – according to press reports (I’ve not talked to her directly!) Katie and her family are “really excited”, and it’s a significant discovery.
You can see how the story unfolded on the ‘Furry Moth’ observation Katie’s Dad added to iSpot."