Friday 17 May
Six-spot burnet moth (Zygaena filipendulae)
Six-spot burnet moth fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Six-spot burnet moth description
The six-spot burnet moth (Zygaena filipendulae) is a brightly coloured day-flying moth. Its bright colours warn potential predators that it is poisonous. The blackish forewings have a metallic sheen and feature red spots that earn the species its common name (3). Despite the name, however, the number of spots can vary between individuals, and may be fused in some cases (4). The red hind wings have a fine bluish border and the antennae are club-shaped (3). A colour form known as f. flava has yellow spots in place of the normal red ones. Very occasionally, specimens with brown spots are also seen (5).
- Wingspan: 25-40 mm (2)
Six-spot burnet moth biology
The six-spot burnet moth lives in colonies, and flies in sunshine from June to August (2). It feeds on the nectar of a large range of flowers, with wild thyme being a particular favourite (3). On overcast days it tends to retreat deep into grasses and can be difficult to spot (4). It is a single-brooded species, and the eggs are laid on bird’s-foot-trefoil. The caterpillars overwinter once, and occasionally twice, before pupating in paper-like cocoons on grass stems before emerging in June (4).Top
Six-spot burnet moth range
The six-spot burnet moth has a wide distribution in Britain and is fairly common. In Scotland it becomes more of a coastal species (2).Top
Six-spot burnet moth habitat
Found in a range of habitats including meadows with plenty of flowers, chalk downland, sea-cliffs, woodland rides, railway cuttings, disused quarries, and sand hills (2) (1). The six-spot burnet moth seems to prefer sites that have a mix of short and long grass, where there are sheltered sunny patches (3). The larvae need long grasses on which to pupate (1).Top
Six-spot burnet moth status
The six-spot burnet moth is not threatened (2).Top
Six-spot burnet moth threats
Although the six-spot burnet moth is not threatened at present, it seems likely that the widespread loss and agricultural improvement of semi-natural grasslands that has taken place will have impacted on this beautiful moth. Loss of ancient grasslands continues to date, while scrub encroachment is also a problem. Furthermore, colonies are vulnerable to drought (3).Top
Six-spot burnet moth conservation
The burnet study group has been formed to promote the conservation of burnet moths in Scotland (6).Top
Find out more
For more on butterflies and moths see Butterfly Conservation:
- 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.
- The process of forming a pupa, the stage in an insect’s development, when huge changes occur that reorganise the larval form into the adult form. In butterflies the pupa is also called a chrysalis.
- The process of becoming a pupa.
- 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.
National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (January 2004):
- Skinner, B. (1984) Colour identification guide to the moths of the British Isles. Penguin Books, Harmondsworth.
Edinburgh Biodiversity partnership: Six-spot burnet (January 2004):
Habitas.org (January 2004):
- Young, M. (2004) Pers. comm.
The Burnet Study Group (January 2004):
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.