Reddish Vale Country Park
the Cinnabar Moth is a brightly coloured moth, found in Europe and western and central Asia. It has been introduced into New Zealand, Australia and North America to control poisonous ragwort, which its larvae feed on. The moth is named after the red mineral cinnabar because of the red patches on its predominantly black wings.
Cinnabar moths are day flying moths. Like many other brightly coloured moths, it is distastefull, the larvae absorb the bitter tasting alkaloid substances from ragwort and occasionally groundsel which it feeds on, and assimilate them, becoming distasteful themselves. The bright colours of both the larvae and the moths act as a warning sign to predators rather than camouflage.
The Cinnabar caterpillars can turn cannabalistic, this can be due to lack of food, but can eat other Cinnabar larvae for no apparent reason. The larvae are jet black and orange and feed ravenously and can grow up to 30mm. Cinnabar catterpillars are voracious eaters and can strip entire patches of ragwort clean, this is due to them reproducing in great numbers, often hundreds in a very small area, also a result of their low predation.
Very few often survive to the pupae 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.
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