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Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars spotted on The Ridge

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This fine example of an orange and black striped caterpillar of the Cinnabar Moth was spotted on The Ridge this week.

The black and yellow striped caterpillar of the Cinnabar Moth is one of the most instantly recognisable caterpillars in the British Isles.

The caterpillars grow up to 28 mm and feed mainly on Ragwort, a toxic plant.

This caterpillar was doing precisely that i.e feeding on Common Ragwort, a tall plant with a flower-head which is entirely yellow.

The yellow flowers are borne in clusters, which are usually flat-topped and the leaves of which are deeply lobed and toothed; they are usually hairy underneath and have a rather unpleasant smell, particularly when crushed.

Common Ragwort is poisonous to livestock.

This doesn't usually present a problem because most animals avoid eating it BUT, when dried in hay, horses may eat it, and the alkaloid toxins in Ragwort can lead to liver damage.

Accepting that the viewpoints on Ragwort are highly controversial, it is still a delight to see how bees, butterflies and hover-flies are attracted to the yellow flower-head and to spot such a wonderfully marked caterpillar on The Sandstone Ridge.

Click on each of these striking images to enlarge

  • the cinnabar moth caterpillar
  • the cinnabar moth

For the DEFRA Code of Conduct on how to prevent the spread of Ragwort CLICK HERE.

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