Six Spot Burnet Moth

Teresa Morris of Islay Wildscapes is rapidly becoming a regular blogger and her articles are a great addition to this blog. Her entries are posted in Teresa's own topic called Seasonwatch and usually occur on Friday evenings and Teresa's holidays. Tonight there's another very interesting article about the Six Spot Burnet Moth. Make sure to read the entire article and watch the incredible images in the full blog post!

Teresa: If you take a walk along the coastal grasslands and sands dunes of Islay just now it is quite likely that you may see a brightly coloured moth the Six Spot Burnet Moth (Zygaena filipendulae) which many people mistaken for a butterfly. It is the commonest and most widely distributed burnet moth in the UK.

The six-spot burnet moth is brightly coloured and flies during the day. It has blackish blue front wings with a slightly metallic shine patterned with six red spots which gives it its name. Crimson hind wings have a very narrow dark blue/black border. This bright patterning indicates to predators that this is poisonous as it contains cyanide. The wing span of this moth is approximately 30-38mm. The moth is located in areas of coastal grassland wildflowers including clover, bird’s foot trefoil, clover kidney vetch, thistles and scabious on which the caterpillars survive. Continue reading.....

These warm June and July sunny days which we have been experiencing are ideal for the emergence of the adult moths. They only have a short life span and once they have mated and the female has laid her eggs they die. The eggs are laid on the above food plants after which they hatch into young caterpillars within a few days. Once autumn arrives they hibernate within these plants. When spring comes having survived the battering of the winter storms the caterpillars start feeding again and are fully grown by the end of May. The caterpillar is short and plump measuring about 22mm. It has a greenish yellow body with two rows of black blotches along its back and smaller spots along its sides. It has large jaws for chewing the plants on which it feeds. Caterpillars which are fully grown spin cocoons with silk from their spinnaret, a special gland near their mouth. These straw coloured cocoons are attached high up in grass stems and change into a pupa inside the cocoon. Inside the pupa the body of the caterpillar breaks down and reforms into the body of an adult moth in June and July. Source: SNH FC Butterfly Conservation.

Burnet Moths mating on cocoon

If the story of the lifecycle of this amazing moth has given you an interest in moths then why not start recording moths when out and about or even in your garden.

Butterfly Conservation are currently running the Moths Count project. The aim of The Moths Count is to stimulate and encourage moth recording throughout the UK including Islay and to establish an ongoing recording scheme for the 900+ species of macro-moths.

This work will develop a comprehensive, database showing the distribution of the UK's larger moths. It will contribute to the scientific knowledge of moths, raise public awareness and will encourage you to actively participate in wildlife recording. If you wish to take part in this work the Islay recorder is listed at The County Moth Recorder.

Good luck in your moth spotting! With thanks to a friend of mine on Islay for the orchid photograph.

Burnet moth feeding on birds foot trefoil

Burnet moth on Bedstraw

Burnet Moth on Thyme

Burnet Moths mating in dune grassland

Burnet Moth Cocoon

Six Spot Burnet Moth on Pyramidal Orchid

Tag: wildlife burnet moth seasonwatch dunes

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