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Reddish Vale Country Park

Burnet Moth

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The six spot burnet's forewings are black with a strong blue or green sheen when fresh, and each has six red spots.

There are ten related species of burnet moths in Britain. These brightly coloured, day flying moths are protected by distasteful poisons. They are rather sluggish in flight and spend a lot of time resting on flowers. When they do take to the air, their narrow wings whirr rapidly, but their flight is slow and they seem to drift from flower to flower.

Flies June - August in grassy places, the Butterfly Field is a good place to spot them.

 

The burnet lays it's eggs on it's food plant in July to August and the young caterpillars hatch within a few days. The caterpillars start feeding in the autumn and then hibernate through the winter on the plants. They start feeding again in the spring and are usually fully grown by the end of May. Sometimes they remain as caterpillars over a second winter.

 

The fully grown caterpillars spin cocoons with silk, the tough straw coloured cocoons are attached high up on grass stems. Inside the pupa, the body of the caterpillar breaks down and reforms into the body of an adult moth. The adult moths only live a short time, once they have mated and the female has laid her eggs, the adults die.

 

The burnets are brightly coloured for a good reason, at all stages of life their bodies contain cyanide and the colouring is a warning to potential predators. One of the moths favorite food plants is the birdsfoot trefoil (picture right) and source of the cyanide.

 

Burnet Moth