Cinnabar moth caterpillars as far as the eye could see...

July 2019

One of the first things that occurred me after we purchased Stackmoor was that I definitely needed to get hold of some decent field identification guides!

It was mid-July and there was so much activity in the ‘meadow’ with what seemed like hundreds of brightly coloured caterpillars hanging in clusters off what I now know to be ragwort plants. With their vibrantly distinctive orangey yellow and black banded “you’ve been warned” markings, the caterpillar of the cinnabar moth is something to behold!

We witnessed how these wriggling bunches of caterpillars could reduce a ragwort stem to virtually nothing in no time at all.

Apparently, the poison from the leaves of the ragwort is stored in their body (and even remains when they are an adult moth) resulting in the fact that any birds or other predators that ignore the caterpillars bright warning signs will almost certainly be repulsed by how foul they taste.

Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get any pictures of the moth itself (which is a pity as its colouration is as striking at its caterpillar form) with its bright scarlet spots and stripes and deep charcoal edging… that will have to be a picture for another post.

Fun fact though, seemingly, these beautiful insects are also known to be cannibalistic… lovely!