The delicate adults of the Drab Looper are greyish-brown in colour and have a silky appearance, but this 'sheen' is lost with age (3). The caterpillars reach 1.3 cm in length, they have a brown head and a grey-pink body with variable black markings, pink warts and an orange or yellow stripe along each side (4). The common name 'looper' refers to the caterpillar, which characteristically arches its body as it moves (5).
The Drab Looper is usually single-brooded and the adults fly in May and June. Sometimes a second brood is produced, the adults of which fly in August. Eggs are laid in June (4), the caterpillars are present from July to early September, and the overwintering stage is the pupa(1), which occurs below the soil surface (4). The adults emerge the following year in May and June (4) and can be seen flying in sunshine (1).
This moth is found in two main areas in the UK, one extends from Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire, reaching north to Herefordshire and Worcestershire. The other area focuses on Hampshire, and includes south Wiltshire, West Sussex and Berkshire. The species has been lost from many woods in Somerset, Kent and South Wales, but persists in isolated colonies in these areas. Since the 1940s it has been totally lost from Oxfordshire and the area extending east to Bedfordshire and Essex. Elsewhere, the species has been recorded from most central and southern European countries (2).
This species is found in recently felled or coppiced woodland where the larval foodplant wood spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides is found. The caterpillars show a preference for plants growing in full sun (2).
This species has suffered as a result of changes in forestry practices including the decline in traditional coppice management in woodlands, and the replacement of small-scale rotational felling with large plantations of trees of the same age, particularly conifers (2).
The Drab Looper is a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP). The Species Action Plan aims to maintain the current range of this moth and establish a regular monitoring scheme. Many of the existing colonies occur within Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) (2).
Coppicing is a traditional form of woodland management in which trees are cut close to the base of the trunk. Re-growth occurs in the form of many thin poles. Coppiced woodlands are cut in this way on rotation, producing a mosaic of different stages of re-growth.
Of the stage in an animal's lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
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.
(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.
Embed this ARKive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.