I have chosen a bright and colourful species to focus on in today's advent blog post, mainly to remind myself that the dull shades of a dark winter's day will not last forever! The Garden Tiger (Arctia caja) is a moth which is distributed throughout the UK, although some areas have experienced recent declines in numbers. The appearance of the caterpillars are responsible for the alternative name of the 'Woolly Bear' moth, sporting a dense covering of whitish hairs and bright orange and black aposematic colouration to warn would-be predators of its distaste. These pretty creatures feed on a range of herbaceous plants, including common species like Nettle, Dandelion and Dock: classic caterpillar nosh. They overwinter as a small caterpillar, which spends the springtime feasting on these plants, before pupating and emerging as the striking adult Arctiid moth in July and August. They are a favourite find of many people who are new to moth trapping, due to their beautiful appearance. Here on Bardsey, as many as 200 have been trapped in one trap overnight, although there are typically single figure counts on a daily basis during the summer. Collectors used to breed this species in captivity to encourage the development of a number of different morphs and variants, some of which are pictured here.
If you would like to find out more about this species, check out the following links:
- UK Moths