The garden tiger moth

David Chapman / 14 May 2014

The garden tiger moth (Arctia caja) is one of our most striking and colourful species of moth.



The garden tiger moth is found throughout mainland Britain, often in gardens, and was once regarded as common but recent figures suggest that its population in the UK has crashed by 92% since 1968.

It is easily recognised though its pattern of dark brown and cream on its forewings are variable. Notice the beautiful combination of blue spots on orange hind wings. It has one generation of adults every year and these fly between June and August.

Its caterpillar is known as the ‘woolly bear’ because it is very hairy. It feeds on a variety of plants including nettle, dock, burdock, hound’s tongue and many garden plants in a wide range of habitats. The cuckoo is one bird which likes to eat woolly bears but the decline of this species isn't due to predation.

It is thought that warmer, wetter weather might have reduced the proportion of woolly bears which survive over winter.  It takes some colder weather to kill off the pests and diseases which attack the woolly bears.  Other factors which might be contributing to the decline of garden tigers probably include habitat loss and the chemicals we use to eradicate 'weeds'.

Some other members of the tiger moth family have benefited from climate change, for instance the Jersey tiger moth has increased in recent years.

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