The Cinnabar is a moth of rough grassland and hedgerows, gardens and waste ground, where the black and yellow-banded caterpillars feed on Common Ragwort, other ragworts and groundsels.
The moth is slate-black with two scarlet spots and two scarlet stripes on the rounded forewings. Its hindwings are pinky-red and bordered with black.
The bright colouring of both adults and caterpillars warns predators they are unpalatable, having ingested the poisonous ragwort plants.
Adults are on the wing during the summer, flying in the sunshine, but also at night. They are easily disturbed, fluttering up from their feeding plants.
The caterpillars pupate in autumn, spending the winter as cocoons on the ground, before emerging as moths the following summer.
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Numbers of Cinnabar moths are reported to have fallen by 83% over the last 35 years, possibly due to the eradication of poisonous ragwort in livestock fields. As a consequence, the Cinnabar is now classed as a priority species under the national Biodiversity Action Plan.
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Copyright © Karen Meadows 2018