Scarlet Tiger Moth – garden wildlife

Last autumn I attended a fascinating nine week course at the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust on macro moths.  I did hear the comment “what do you want to do a course on moths for?” a number of times but it was a fascinating evening class.

It has helped me appreciate the sheer diversity and number of moth species in my garden alone.  Most importantly it has helped me understand what I need to do to make the garden a more friendly habitat for both the adult moths and their caterpillars.  Of course many of these caterpillars are also food for the many birds we have nesting in the garden as well at this time of year.

The Scarlet Tiger (Callimorpha dominula) is a relatively large moth (23-27mm).  It is typically a southern moth in the UK (south of the Wash), in the south west and rarely in the south east.  It has unmistakable white and yellow spots and blotches on black on the forewing and a largely red hindwing which can just be seen in my photograph.

The adults fly in June and July by day and at night.  Its preferred habitat is wetlands, including riverbanks and ditches, grassland, coastal habitats (not applicable here!) and gardens ¹.

According to wikipedia the caterpillars mainly feed on comfrey (Symphytum officinale), but also on a number of other plants including Urtica (nettles), Cynoglossum (borage), Fragaria (strawberries), Fraxinus (ash), Geranium, Lamium (dead-nettles), Lonicera (honeysuckle), Myosotis (forget-me-not), Populus (poplar), Prunus (cherry), Ranunculus (buttercup), Rubus (blackberries et al), Salix (willow) and Ulmus (elm) species).  All of these are in plentiful supply here in the lanes and in the garden.

Further reading

¹ “Concise guide to the moths of Great Britain and Ireland” by Martin Townsend and Paul Waring (ISBN 978-1-4729-6583-7)

Scarlet Tiger Moths are in the family Arctiidae, subfamily Arctiinae which includes the tigers, ermines and footman.

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