Tuesday, 25 July 2017

How many spots on a burnet moth?

I'll start with the easy one.  This is a burnet moth with six spots on each fore-wing so it is a six-spot burnet moth (Zygaena filipendulae).  It is common throughout the British Isles, so it is no surprise to see it here.

This one looks to me like a burnet moth with five spots, so I wondered if it might be a five-spot burnet moth (Zygaena trifolii).

However, I then read that the five-spot burnet moth is found in the south of England, in Wales and in the Isle of Man. So perhaps it isn't.  Then I read further that it has been spreading north in recent years and is now found in Scotland. So perhaps it is.  Then I read about the narrow-bordered five-spot burnet moth (Zygaena lonicerae) which is common across England and Wales and the Scottish Borders.  It has a longer and more pointed forewing than Zygaena trifolii and a narrower black border on the hind-wing but both are tricky when you don't have the two side by side.  Here is a glimpse of the black border but I don't know if it is narrow or not.

I found this six-spot with crumpled wings.  I don't know if it was newly emerged and the wings weren't yet fully expanded or if it had a wing deformity.

And this one was one of three types of insect interested in the same flower.

Like cinnabar moths, burnet moths are aposematic, that is they have warning colouration to deter predators.  Burnet moths emit a liquid containing cyanide if attacked so the birds know to leave them alone.

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