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Overview

Brief Summary

Cinnabar moths are striking images, with red-black wings. They are commonly found in open dunes. Although categorized as a moth, this insect is active during the day. You can find them fluttering about between April and mid August, with the greatest chance in May. The notable black-yellow striped caterpillars live off of ragwort. Sometimes, they will leave this toxic plant totally bare. They store the poison in their skin, which makes them toxic as well. Some people call them zebra caterpillars, due to their pattern. The combination of yellow and black is a well known warning for danger in nature. Just think of wasps! The moths are also toxic.
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Biology

Adult cinnabar moths fly very late at night, when they are attracted to light. They rest during the day in low vegetation (2) from which they are easily disturbed (5). It is a single-brooded species, with adults present from May to July (2). During June, females lay large batches of eggs on the undersides of ragwort leaves. The caterpillars hatch out in July and are active until August. They pupate in September in cocoons on the ground, and spend the winter in the pupal stage before emerging as adult moths the following May (3). Ragwort is highly poisonous, particularly to horses, and the bright colouration of the caterpillars warns potential predators that they are distasteful, a result of feeding on a poisonous plant (3).
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Description

The cinnabar moth is brightly coloured, with crimson hindwings bordered with dusky black. Its dark grey forewings have a red streak towards the front margin and two red spots on the outer edges (2). The larval form, the caterpillar is even more striking, with a bright orange body and black transverse bands. The head is shiny and black, and the body is covered with short black hairs (3).
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Distribution

occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Range

This moth is widespread and frequently common through much of England and Wales. It becomes more rare in southern Scotland where it is mainly found in coastal areas (2). This species is widespread throughout Europe (3).
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Ecology

Habitat

Found in meadows, wasteland, road verges and downland where the foodplants ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) and other members of the Senecio genus occur (3).
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Associations

Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
larva of Compsilura concinnata is endoparasitoid of larva of Tyria jacobaeae

Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
larva of Exorista fasciata is endoparasitoid of larva of Tyria jacobaeae

Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
larva of Exorista larvarum is endoparasitoid of larva of Tyria jacobaeae

Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
larva of Winthemia quadripustulata is endoparasitoid of larva of Tyria jacobaeae

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Tyria jacobaeae

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 39
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Status

This widespread species is not threatened. It is not listed under any conservation designations (3).
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Threats

This species is not threatened.
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Management

Conservation

Conservation action has not been targeted at this widespread species.
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Wikipedia

Cinnabar moth

The cinnabar moth (Tyria jacobaeae) is a brightly coloured arctiid moth, found in Europe and western and central Asia. It has been introduced into New Zealand, Australia and North America to control poisonous ragwort, on which its larvae feed. The moth is named after the red mineral cinnabar because of the red patches on its predominantly black wings. Cinnabar moths are about 20mm long and have a wingspan of 32–42 mm (1.3-1.7 in).

Cinnabar moths are day-flying insects. Like many other brightly coloured moths, it is unpalatable; the larvae use members of the genus Senecio as foodplants. Many members of the genus have been recorded as foodplants, but for long-term population success, the presence of the larger species such as ragwort is needed. Smaller plant species, such as groundsel, are sometimes used, but since the species lays its eggs in large batches, survival tends to be reduced. Newly hatched larvae feed from the underneath of ragwort leaves within the area of their old eggs. The larvae absorb toxic and bitter tasting alkaloid substances from the foodplants, and assimilate them, becoming unpalatable themselves.[1] The bright colours of both the larvae and the moths act as warning signs, so they are seldom eaten by predators. An exception is among different species of Cuckoo which eat hairy and poisonous caterpillars including cinnabar moth larvae.[2]

Like several other Arctiidae moth larvae, the cinnabar caterpillars can turn cannibalistic. This can be due to lack of food, but they can eat other cinnabar larvae for no apparent reason.[citation needed] Females lay up to 300 eggs, usually in clusters of 30 to 60. Initially, the larvae are pale yellow, but later larval stages develop the jet black and orange/yellow striped colouring.[3] They can grow up to 30mm, and are voracious eaters; large populations can strip entire patches of ragwort clean, a result of their low predation.

Often, very few survive to the pupal stage, mainly due to them completely consuming the food source before reaching maturity; this could be a possible explanation for their tendency to engage in seemingly random cannibalistic behaviour, as many will die from starvation.[citation needed] Additionally, the larvae are predated by species like the ants Formica polyctena.[4]

The moth has proven to be particularly successful as a biocontrol agent for ragwort when used in conjunction with the ragwort flea beetle in the western United States.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Cinnabar moth". A Nature Observer′s Scrapbook. bugsandweeds.co.uk. June 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-21. 
  2. ^ Burton, Robert (2002). The International Wildlife Encyclopedia, Volume 1 (3rd ed.). Benchmark Books. p. 618. 
  3. ^ "Cinnabar Moth Life Cycle". HortFACT. HortNET. 1998. Retrieved 2007-12-21. 
  4. ^ Haccou, P. and L. Hemerik. “The Influence of Larval Dispersal in the Cinnabar Moth (Tyria jacobaeae) on Predation by the Red Wood Ant (Formica polyctena): An Analysis Based on the Proportional Hazards Model.”Journal of Animal Ecology , Vol. 54, No. 3 (Oct., 1985).
  5. ^ Coombs, E. M., et al., Eds. (2004). Biological Control of Invasive Plants in the United States. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 344.
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Following Lafontaine and Schmidt (2010), the traditional Arctiidae have been transferred to the family Erebidae as a subfamily (Arctiinae), with former subfamilies such as Lithosiinae now treated as tribes. The circumscription of Arctiinae remains virtually identical to recent circumscriptions of Arctiidae, but circumscriptions of some taxa within the Arctiinae have changed.

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