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Burnet Moth

Zygaenidae

Burnet Moth, Forester Moth, Smoky Moth

A close up photo of a red and black Burnett moth from the insect Zygaenidae resting on a green plant

Zygaenidae - Zygaena osterodensis

by Hectonichus. CC BY-SA 3.0

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Zygaenidae is a family of day-flying moths, totalling roughly 1,000 species worldwide. They're best known for their contrasting wing patterning and colouration; and because they're day-flying, they are sighted often by gardeners. The striking colouration seen in these moths is a signal to predators, like birds, that these insects are foul-tasting. Watch these moths fluttering slowly though the garden from mid-summer. They thrive in damp meadow and grassland habitats with alkaline soil. They're frequently seen in heathland habitats, too. The UK and Ireland possess 10 species of burnet and forester moths.
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Traits

Gorgeous moths that can be seen on the wing from early summer.

Appearance

Adults: Mature moths typically possess wings with a glossy, shimmery finish. Many are black with bold, contrasting red patterning, the bodies often being black too. Some are metallic green-blue, others white and black. They are extremely variable! Some species display some fuzzy hair-like scales on the thorax. The antennae are long, black, becoming wider towards the tips. Larvae: Stout, short caterpillars. Many are yellow in colour with some kind of black patterning. Pupae: Currently unavailable. Eggs: Currently unavailable.

Symptoms

Caterpillars may be found on some herbaceous plants, shrubs and deciduous trees.

Activity

Nocturnal

Personality

Order

Lepidoptera

Family

Zygaenidae

Metamorphosis

Complete

Distribution

Europe, Asia, USA, South America, Africa and Australia

Biological treatment

These caterpillars are harmless in most cases. If you spot loads on a desirable plant, remove a few using gloves and relocate. They may not be eaten by birds but serve as a yummy treat for spiders and parasitic wasps. Their eggs are a food source for other garden wildlife.

Chemical treatment

It's not advised to remove these insects from the environment because of the small risk they pose to garden plants.

Attracts

The caterpillar can use a whole range of trees as the primary food plant!

Sorrel

Rumex acetosa

Common Rock Rose

Helianthemum nummularium

Common Knapweed

Centaurea nigra

A close up of some Thymus vulgaris flowers

Thyme

Thymus vulgaris

Bird's Foot Trefoil

Lotus corniculatus

Glossy Crowberry

Searsia lucida

Heathers

Calluna spp.

Spring Vetchling

Lathyrus vernus

Repels

Predatory insects will eat the moths and caterpillars.
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