Country Corner

Garden tiger
Garden tiger

Big, bright, colourful and dramatic! What better to find in your garden than the amazing Garden Tiger?

If ever an insect shot down the stereotype of moths as dull brown and boring, this is it. With wings closed only the giraffe patterned upper wings show.

Though these look conspicuous they actually break up the moth’s outline and are a surprisingly effecive means of cryptic camouflage.

But let any hungry bird investigate too closely and the moth will flash its warning underwings and tiger striped body, like some over the top red danger signal!

This is no empty threat either. My picture shows the Garden Tigers’ naked red collar from which the moth can exude poisonous fluids when under attack.

Of course, visual warnings of these chemical defences are of little use in the dark of night when bats are on the hunt for big tasty treats.

Garden Tigers have all eventualities covered though.

They can also emit high pitched creaks and squeaks, which bats can detect and soon learn to associate with the species’ foul taste.

You can see the Garden Tigers’ early warning system has saved this one which shows a scar across its saddle.

If you have never seen this dramatic moth you may have seen its “woolly bear” caterpillars which are familiar on the leafy tips of shrubs.

I often find them on scrubby Goat Willow but they have a wide range of favoutite food plants.

Some people get a skin rash from handling these caterpillars, which are no doubt as toxic as their parents.

Poisonous or not, the Garden Tiger moth is a great favourite of mine.