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The buff-tip moth

David Chapman

Wildlife expert David Chapman introduces a master of disguise, the buff-tip moth.

Buff-tip moth
Buff-tip moth photographed by David Chapman. Click the arrow to see its camouflage in action

Moths tend to be active by night, a strategy which offers them safety from the majority of predators, with the exception of bats. However this approach does present them with a problem: what to do to remain safe during the day!

The answer is that moths hide away in all sorts of nooks and crannies and dark places where they might be safe from predatory birds and mammals. To help them remain hidden most moths are drably coloured, and this is sufficient for them to avoid being spotted but some have a much more precise camouflage.

The buff-tip moth has one of the most amazing camouflage patterns and even its shape has evolved to help it blend in with its chosen surroundings. When a buff-tip moth rests amongst broken twigs on the woodland floor, or amongst branches on a tree, it almost disappears from sight (see photos).

Buff-tip moths can be found in gardens and woodland, their flight season is mostly June and July. Having spent the winter as a chrysalis underground the adult moth takes to the wing and the females soon lay a large batch of eggs. Their larvae hatch out en masse, eating the leaves of various trees including sallows, birch, oak and hazel, and for a while, stick together making them a good deal more obvious than their parents! Once they have the strength, they spread out before pupating underground in the autumn and so the life-cycle begins again.


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