This species of moth is very variable in the colouration and markings of the upper, or forewings. They can range from pale grey and white to dark brown striations and blotches, and can be mistaken for the thistle ermine moth Myelois cribrella.
The moths emerge in July and are on the wing throughout the next two months. They favour a number of herbaceous plants as food sources for their caterpillars, including dandelion. The caterpillars are small and coloured with dark grey, almost black, spiky hairs. They hatch in September and overwinter until early spring.
The Speckled Footman is scattered across Europe as far south as the Mediterranean and into North Africa, and eastwards as far as Siberia. In the UK, it was once widespread but, since 1990, has only been recorded from heaths in Dorset.
The Speckled Footman moth is listed as a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, and is included in English Nature's Species Recovery Programme. In order to safeguard the species’ future in the UK, it is vital that its true status is established. The action plan recommends that a full survey of its former sites be undertaken and genetic testing carried out to determine whether the subspeciesbivittata is endemic to Britain. Only then will it be decided if a re-introduction programme using captive-bred British moths should be carried out, or whether moths introduced from the continent could be used. It may even be proved that individuals from the continent migrate to the UK and interbreed with the resident moths.
The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.
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