Moth man's important discovery at Devon's Hembury woods


By Jemima Laing
BBC Devon
Wednesday, 28 April 2010

A Devon amateur naturalist who has discovered a moth previously unknown to science has been rewarded with having it named after him.

Bob Heckford first spotted the tell-tale signs of mines made by the caterpillars in oak leaves at the National Trust's Hembury Woods.

Now the micro moth has officially been recognised as a new species and named Ectoedemia heckfordi, after Bob.

"Hembury Woods holds a rich seam of natural treasures, and I'm sure that there are yet more wonders to be uncovered," said Bob from Plymouth.

The moth is tiny with a wingspan of about 6mm

The discovery of a new species of micro moth is extremely significant as it has not been found anywhere else in the world.





"For most of my life I've had a passion for the natural world, and been privileged enough to have beautiful wild places on my doorstep," said Bob, who has known Hembury Woods - near Buckfastleigh - for years.

He spotted the unusual bright green caterpillars of this tiny leaf-mining moth on oak saplings, the moths themselves are tiny - with a wingspan of about 6mm.

The trust says the find is important because the specimen is now acknowledged by the scientific world as the 'type' for that species, against which any future finds will be compared and then determined.


Discoveries, however great or small, are deeply rewarding and vital to our understanding of an ever-changing world
Bob Heckford


A specimen is also going to be added to the collection at the Natural History Museum in London and the find makes Hembury Woods the 'type' locality.

"We hear so much about the losses to the natural world, and less about the gains, which makes this find, however small, so important," said Matthew Oates, nature conservation adviser at the trust.

"This discovery was really a needle in a haystack find and it gives us a tempting insight into what might still be out there."

Bob has a long track record for making such discoveries - he was the first to find other micro moth species which were previously unknown in the British Isles, including one on National Trust land in Cornwall.

And in 2006 he rediscovered an oil beetle on National Trust land in south Devon which was thought to be extinct in the British Isles.

"Discoveries, however great or small, are deeply rewarding and vital to our understanding of an ever-changing world," said Bob.

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