Spotted in Dane Valley Woods: Ruby Tiger Moth caterpillar

This fuzzy copper caterpillar is the larvae to the ruby tiger moth (Phragmatobia fuliginosa). It is the most common of our tiger moths and can be found across the whole United Kingdom, with its numbers having thought to have increased threefold in the past 35 years. It tends to be found in grassland areas or open woodland, so Dane Valley Woods is a perfect habitat for it to thrive.

The ruby tiger moth gets its name from its adult colouration. The ruby tiger moth has pinkish wings with a brown head and pink thorax with black spots and an orange and black striped abdomen. The name is more fitting for the populations in the south of England, as the individuals tend to become a duller brown or grey colour further north into Scotland.

The moth flies most commonly flies at night but can be seen during the day and due to it sometimes striking colouration, it can be mistaken for a butterfly. It overwinters as a larvae, and the natural chemicals in the caterpillar’s body prevents it from freezing and allows it to become inactive and emerge in the warmer weather to feast on its favourite plants such as heather, dock and dandelions.

Look for the adults in flight from April to June, and again in August to September; or the hairy caterpillars from June to April.

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