Country Corner

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For years, this column was in black and white. Here is one of those pictures which really takes full advantage of colour printing – meet the cinnabar moth.

As if she knows of her beauty, she flies by day, leading folk to believe they have seen some exotic species of butterfly.

Many of you who walk by the coast will have noticed the cinnabars’ striking black and yellow-banded caterpillars on yellow flowered ragwort.

In fact, cinnabar caterpillars always seem far more common than cinnabar moths.

This can only mean the adult moths are very secretive, or the caterpillars,despite being foul tasting, have a high mortality rate.

Beware of confusing this species with the similarly-coloured but much more common burnet moth, which is also a day flyer and tends to share the same habitats.

As you can see from my photo, most of the red – from which the insect earns its name – is in fact on the under wings, so usually hidden from veiw.

It alway reminds me of a red satin-lined opera cloak, dark and sombre outside, but allowing dazzling flashes of scarlet with movement.

So watch out for the day-flying moth in the opera cloak, though you may be far more likely to see the ragwort-climbing caterpillars in their rugby strips!