Posts Tagged ‘invertebrates’

If you’re out and about on a nice sunny day and notice what you think is a pretty red and black butterfly it is actually the Cinnabar moth (Tyria Jacobaeae).

The Cinnabar moth (Tyria Jacobaeae) was originally named after the bright red mineral ‘cinnabar’ once used by artists as a red pigment for painting.

The adult moth has two bright red spots and red stripes on its forewings and scarlet hind wings with charcoal edging. Moths are split into 2 broad groups – the macro moths (large) and the micro moths (small). The Cinnabar is a macro moth and has a body length of 20mm and a wingspan of between 32mm – 42mm. Although this is a predominantly nocturnal moth it can also be seen during the day.

Cinnabar moth (Tyria Jacobaeae) © Clare Dinham

Life cycle

Females can lay up to 300 eggs, usually in batches of 30 or 60 on the underside of ragwort leaves. When the caterpillars (larvae) hatch they feed on the around the area of the hatched eggs but as they get bigger and moult (instars) they mainly feed on the leaves and flowers of the plant, and can be seen out in the open during the day.


Caterpillars are feeding from July – early September and are initially pale yellow but soon develop bright yellow and black stripes to deter predators.

Cinnabar moth caterpillar (Tyria Jacobaeae) © Roger Key

The caterpillars feed on poisonous ragwort leaves. The poision from the leaves is stored in the caterpillars body (and even remains when they are an adult moth). Any birds or other predators that ignore the caterpillars bright warning sign will be repulsed by how foul they taste.

Numerous caterpillars on one ragwort plant can reduced it to a bare stem very quickly. They are also known to be cannibalistic.

The caterpillars overwinter as pupa in a cocoon under the ground. The adult moths emerge around mid May and are on the wing up until early August, during which time males and females will mate and eggs are laid.

Distribution and Habitat

The Cinnabar moth is a common species, well distributed throughout the UK and has a coastal distribution in the northern most counties of England and Scotland. Due to its toxicity to livestock Ragwort is being controlled in many areas across the UK. A study carried out by Butterfly Conservation and Rothamstead research in 2003 showed that although the distribution of the Cinnabar moth has remained roughly the same between the study period of 1968 – 2002 their numbers have dropped dramatically due to the persecution of their food plant Ragwort.

Cinnabar moths are found in typically well drained rabbit grazed (short sward) grassland including sand dunes and heathland and lots of other open habitats such as gardens and woodland rides.

Moth trapping

Cinnabar moths are attracted to moth traps which is the main way of recording moths. A moth trap is essentially a light trap which is set in the evening just before dusk and left on throughout the night. Any moths found within the trap can be studied the following morning and released without harming.

Moth trapping using a light trap © Clare Dinham

National Moth Night

Moth night is an annual event carried out across the country aimed at raising the awareness of moths among the public. This year it was carried out from the 21st – 23rd of June. Click on this link to find out more about National Moth Night

With thanks to Buglife for their contribution. To find out more about Buglife visit them at;





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The Horrid ground-weaver (Nothophantes horridus) is one of the rarest invertebrates in the UK; it may also be one of the rarest spiders in the world! Buglife are developing new survey techniques to help find this rare spider.

This spider is so rare it has only been found in two places in the entire world! The two sites are both old limestone quarries in the Plymouth area.

The Horrid ground-weaver is a species of small money spider with a total body length of just 2.5mm. The spider’s name comes from the fact that its body is rather bristly – the Latin origin for the word horrid is bristly.

Photo of Duncan working on the Horrid ground weaver project

Project Officer Duncan Allen checking pitfall traps for the Horrid ground-weaver © Andrew Whitehouse

The Horrid ground-weaver is a UK BAP priority species for conservation action. It was first recorded in the UK in 1989 and then again in 1995, but has not been seen since. Plus, one of the sites where this species was known to live has been developed in to an industrial estate. So, the aim of this project is to re-find the spider in its historical sites and check other similar places in the area to see if it is there.

The Horrid ground-weaver is tricky to find due to its size and it habit of living deep in the cracks and crevices in the limestone, coming out at night to hunt on the rock slopes. It is necessary for us to come up with effective survey techniques – this way we can efficiently survey new sites for the spider. We are using some new and unusual survey techniques, such as drinking straw crevice traps, platform pitfall traps and a bug hoover!

This is a partnership project with the University of Plymouth, supported by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and The Whitley Conservation Trust.

Many thanks to Andrew Whitehouse & Buglife for their great contributions! To learn more about this project and many others, please visit www.buglife.org.uk . You can also follow buglife on Facebook & Twitter by clicking on the links.

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Our perennial insect expert Richard Comont joins us at Wilderness Festival: one of our Meet the Species feature events, to explain how the Roesel’s Bush Cricket’s habits of nibbling each other encourage them to disperse and spread across England.

A Roesels Busgh Cricket strikes a pose on one of our species recording forms

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HomeMake your own wormery

Do you want to unmask the private lives of worms? If so follow these links through to BugLife, and we’ll tell you how to make a simple worm observatory that will reveal their deepest stories.

Wormery © Steven Arnott

Make a Wormery

Get sandy with the Blow Lugworm

Kings of the Compost Heap – The Tiger Worm

The weird and wonderful Shield Slug

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A new exhibition at Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, produced in partnership with Buglife and Plymouth University, will give visitors a chance to discover more about some of the most fascinating insects on our planet.

BeetleMania!, which opens on Saturday 7 July, looks at how and why beetles live the way they do, how they’ve been collected and imaged and how they’ve been portrayed in art, myth, popular culture and literature from as far back as the Ancient Egyptians, right up to the present day.

Andrew Whitehouse, Buglifes South West Regional Manager says “BeetleMania! Is a celebration of the most diverse group of animals on our planet and our relationship with them. Come down to Plymouth Museum this summer and be amazed!”.

Jan Freedman, Natural History Curator at the Museum says “If every animal and plant on earth were lined up in a row, every fifth species would be a beetle. Scientists have found over 370,000 species so far but think there are over a million more which haven’t been discovered yet!”

Green tiger beetle © Chris Cathrine

Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery’s beetle collection contains more than 30,000 specimens, the vast majority of which are British. The specimens were donated to the Museum in 1941 by a local natural history enthusiast called James Higman Keys. The Museum also holds a collection of over 15,000 insects preserved in alcohol from another natural history collector, Jack Spittle, which includes 500 beetle specimens.

BeetleMania! will feature a selection of both Keys’ and Spittle’s beetle specimens along with images, information, objects and artwork.

“We’ve developed the exhibition in partnership with Plymouth University and Buglife and have also been lucky enough to have some funding support from the Royal Entomological Society” said Jan. “We’ll have hundreds of beetles out on display as well as some new and fantastic large-scale images showing close-ups of beetles!”

The exhibition also features a section that highlights some of the forms and places beetles have appeared in over thousands of years, from sacred Egyptian scarabs to the Volkswagen Beetle car, the Fab Four and the ‘Blue Beetle’ comic book.

Peter Smithers of Plymouth University says “BeetleMania! examines the way that we look at and perceive beetles. From vital cogs in the great machine of nature to objects of scientific curiosity. Natural objects of great beauty to cultural icons. The exhibition explores the complex relationship that humans have built with these amazing creatures from the dawn of our history to the present day.”

The Museum has a packed holiday activity program inspired by its exhibition programme this summer, which includes beetle-themed workshops on 25 July, 7, 21 and 23 August. Children can drop in and make mobiles, origami, stained glass windows and more.

BeetleMania! will be on display from 7 July to 8 September. Opening hours are 10am to 5.30pm from Tuesday to Friday and 10am to 5pm on Saturdays. Admission is free.

With thanks to Buglife for their contribution. To find out more about Buglife visit them at;





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As Summer came and went in a day, its time to start preparing for Autumn and BugLife have a great way you can help beetles and other invertebrates in your garden!

This Autumn BugLife would like your help to make snug shelters across the UK’s gardens for the invertebrates living there – everything from beetles to bumblebees, and spiders to snails. To take part all you need to do is create a Bug Hotel and then watch as the bugs move in!

Build a Bug Hotel

Build a Bug Hotel

This is a great autumn activity for all the family and uses those dead leaves littering the lawn. Children should be supervised making the hotel for their own safety, but will enjoy joining in!

To build your own Bug Hotel, click here for all of the instructions you will need from the BugLife website.

With thanks to Buglife for their contribution. To find out more about Buglife visit them at;




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