Striped Lychnis moth: please help!

Striped Lychnis is a nationally scarce moth whose caterpillars feed almost exclusively on Dark Mullein (Verbascum nigrum). The Upper Thames Branch of Butterfly Conservation is asking people in Buckinghamshire to grow Dark Mullein from seed, to try to support local populations of this moth.

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  1. Striped Lychnis can be found on chalk grassland and on roadside verges. In the UK, it now only occurs in parts of West Sussex, Hampshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. It is thought the population is fluctuating, but we have insufficient data to be sure whether its population is currently stable, increasing or declining.
  2. It is thought that decreasing numbers of its caterpillar food plant and habitat loss may be contributing to its decline. A "tidier" countryside is one problem; for example inappropriate roadside management (e.g. the timing of cutting verges by Councils), which removes Dark Mullein plants before the caterpillars have had time to pupate.
  3. In September 2014 volunteers collected Dark Mullein seed from our reserve at Holtspur Bottom, and over the winter, we have been distributing free seeds to people living close to our reserve in the hope that they'll plant some in their gardens or allotments, and return some of the seedlings to our reserve for us to plant out in early summer 2015.
  4. We're delighted that the local media have taken an interest in the plight of the Striped Lychnis, and have encouraged their readers to help us in our project.
  5. Dark Mullein is an attractive tall biennial or short-lived perennial. The flowers are a good nectar source for a wide range of other insects, including bees. Many birds also eat the numerous small seeds the plant produces.
  6. Even if you can't get free seed from us, you could still help by buying and growing seed yourself. To be clear, we would like people to grow Dark Mullein plants in the hope that the flower spikes will be eaten by caterpillars of a nationally scarce moth! Even if you don't manage to attract Striped Lychnis, there is another, similar-looking caterpillar of the Mullein moth that you may attract!
  7. More information on Striped Lychnis can be found  http://holtspurbottom.info/stripedlychnis.html 
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