Belted beauty moth (Lycia zonaria britannica)

Male Belted Beauty
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Belted beauty moth fact file

Belted beauty moth description

GenusLycia (1)

Male and female Belted Beauty moths are strikingly different in appearance; females have tiny, 2 mm long non-functional wings (3) and are dark in colour (4), whereas males have white to greyish wings with brown or black markings (5).

Male wingspan: 28- 35 mm (1)

Belted beauty moth biology

The Belted Beauty moth is single brooded, and adults are present in March and April. Both sexes can be found sitting on low vegetation during the day and night (1), and males tend to fly in the early evening (5). Females can only crawl very short distances (3), and males detect them by means of pheromones (3). The caterpillars occur between May and July (1) and may feed on a variety of other plants including burnet rose (Rosa pimpinellifolia), yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and black medick (Medicago lupulina) (6), in addition to the main foodplants named above (2). Caterpillars burrow into the sand in July (6), spend the winter underground as pupae, and emerge as adults the following year. Individuals are able to remain as pupae for another year or two (6) if the weather is unsuitable (3).


Belted beauty moth range

The subspeciesLycia zonaria britannica is found only in the UK (3), and is extremely localised; it is found on the coasts of Morfa Conwy in Caernarvonshire, north Wales, Sunderland Point in Lancashire, and the Wirral in Cheshire. The other subspecies of the Belted Beauty moth Lycia zonaria atlantica occurs in coastal areas of west Scotland (2). Elsewhere the species occurs in Europe from Western Europe to Russia and from Scandinavia to the Alps (2).


Belted beauty moth habitat

At its sites on the Wirral and in north Wales, the moth is associated with semi-fixed, herb-rich dune grassland where caterpillars feed preferentially on kidney vetch Anthyllis vulneraria at Meols Common and bird's-foot trefoil Lotus corniculatus at Morfa Conwy, although they do have a wider range of foodplants. At Sunderland Point, the moth is associated with an area of upper saltmarsh and associated grassland where the caterpillars feed on Lotus corniculatus and autumnal hawkbit Leontodon autumnalis (6).


Belted beauty moth status

This subspecies is classified as Rare in Great Britain (2).


Belted beauty moth threats

The major factor affecting this species has been habitat loss through development, trampling of dune systems by humans and the natural successional changes in vegetation on these habitats (2). The natural processes of dune formation and inland movement are often restricted by development or agricultural land located immediately landwards of dune systems (3). With the additional threat of future sea-level rise, without loss of agricultural land, it seems likely that many dune systems will be lost as a result of 'coastal squeeze' (4). In addition, the poor dispersal ability of this species does not allow it to readily recolonise appropriate habitat (2).


Belted beauty moth conservation

The Species Action Plan produced for this moth under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) aims to maintain all known Belted Beauty populations in England and Wales (6), and enhance these populations before 2010. This may be achieved through a programme of appropriate habitat management, increasing the area of suitable habitat available and linking currently fragmented habitats (2). Two reintroductions were attempted in Cheshire in 1994, but these were not successful. A 3-year introduction programme to an additional site in north Wales commenced in spring 2002 (6). A survey carried out in 2000 by Butterfly Conservation identified several potentially suitable sites for this species, and research into various management techniques is being carried out at the site in the Wirral (3).

The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.


Information authenticated by Mike Howe, Countryside Council for Wales (CCW).



Stage in an insect's development when huge changes occur, which reorganise the larval form into the adult form. In butterflies the pupa is also called a chrysalis.
Single brooded
(Also known as 'univoltine'). Insect life cycle that takes 12 months to be complete, and involves a single generation. The egg, larva, pupa or adult over winters as a dormant stage.


  1. Skinner, B. (1984) Colour Identification Guide to Moths of the British Isles. Viking Press, London.
  2. UK BAP (Dec 2001):
  3. Lancashire's Biodiversity Action Plan. (Dec 2001):
  4. Pers. observation from images.
  5. South, R. (1961) Moths of the British Isles. Frederick Warne and Co. Ltd, London.
  6. Mike Howe (Countryside Council for Wales) 2002. Pers. comm.

Image credit

Male Belted Beauty  
Male Belted Beauty

© David Green / British Butterfly Conservation Society Ltd

Butterfly Conservation
Manor Yard
East Lulworth
BH20 5QP
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 1929 400 209


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