Cinnabar moths are relatively common, but they have been declining by 83% over the last 35 years. These striking moths are camouflaged to protect them from predators. The black and orange coloring mimics the deadly toxic leaves of their food plant, Ragwort.
The cinnabar moth is a medium-sized moth with a wingspan of about 4cm (1.6in). The bold black and orange pattern on the wings makes it easy to spot when it rests during the day.
The cinnabar moth is found in areas of short grassland such as moorland, heaths, and coastal dunes. It has declined because these habitats have been lost or fragmented due to changing farming practices, development, and invasive non-native species such as the American crayfish.
Are cinnabar moths rare in the UK?
A common species, the Cinnabar, is distributed widely throughout the UK, with a coastal distribution in the north of England and Scotland. However, it has declined significantly within much of its historic range since the 1950s.
As a result of its toxicity to livestock, Ragwort is now being controlled in many areas of the UK, which may be a factor in this decline. It also seems that numbers are lower in certain parts of the country where it was once much commoner than it is today.
Are cinnabar moths native to the UK?
The cinnabar moth is a day-flying moth found in much of Britain and Ireland. It has bright yellow and black wings, with bright red markings on each wing. The caterpillar is black with yellow stripes and has black spines.
The cinnabar moth can be found in a lot of areas throughout Britain, as long as its larval foodplant, Ragwort, and groundsel, are also found. It is the most numerous in the south of the country, where it occurs on heathland, grassland, sand dunes, and saltmarshes. In Ireland, it can be found on the marshy ground at Killard Nature Reserve.
Therefore, Cinnabar moths are not considered rare, but they are vulnerable due to their declining population. They are in danger because of habitat destruction and the loss of their food source, Ragwort, a toxic weed that many governments have tried to eradicate.