Cinnabar moth (Tyria jacobaeae)

GenusTyria (1)
SizeCaterpillar length: up to 30 mm (2)
Wingspan: 35-45 mm (3)

The cinnabar moth has yet to be classified by the IUCN Red List.

The cinnabar moth (Tyria jacobaeae) is brightly coloured, with crimson hindwings bordered with dusky black. Its dark grey forewings have a red streak towards the front margin and two red spots on the outer edges (3). The larval form, the caterpillar is even more striking, with a bright orange body and black transverse bands. The head is shiny and black, and the body is covered with short black hairs (2).

This moth is widespread and frequently common through much of England and Wales. The cinnabar moth becomes more rare in southern Scotland where it is mainly found in coastal areas (3). This species is widespread throughout Europe (2).

The cinnabar moth is found in meadows, wasteland, road verges and downland where the foodplants ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) and other members of the Senecio genus occur (2).

Adult cinnabar moths fly very late at night, when they are attracted to light. They rest during the day in low vegetation (3) from which they are easily disturbed (4). It is a single-brooded species, with adults present from May to July (3). During June, females lay large batches of eggs on the undersides of ragwort leaves. The caterpillars hatch out in July and are active until August. They pupate in September in cocoons on the ground, and spend the winter in the pupal stage before emerging as adult moths the following May (2). Ragwort is highly poisonous, particularly to horses, and the bright colouration of the caterpillars warns potential predators that they are distasteful, a result of feeding on a poisonous plant (2).

The cinnabar moth is not threatened.

Conservation action has not been targeted at the widespread cinnabar moth.

For more on the cinnabar moth:

For more on butterflies and moths:

Information authenticated by Roy Leverton with the support of the British Ecological Society:

  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (September 2003):
  2. Carter, D. & Hargreaves, B. (1986) A field guide to caterpillars of butterflies and moths in Britain and Europe. William Collins & Sons Ltd, London.
  3. Skinner, B. (1984) Colour identification guide to moths of the British Isles. Penguin Books Ltd, Harmondsworth.
  4. Leverton, R. (2004) Pers. comm.