Glasgow & SW Scotland Butterflies

Glasgow & SW Scotland Branch Website

July 12, 2009

Postcard Survey of the Cinnabar Moth 2009

Filed under: Butterflies — Andrew Masterman @ 1:23 pm

Like many of the commoner moths, the Cinnabar has undergone a long-term decline in recent decades (83% over 35 years, based on Rothamsted trap data) and at the UK level is now regarded as a vulnerable species (see ‘The State of Britain’s Larger Moths’ report). It remains widespread across England & Wales, but is much more scarce in Scotland, where it is most often seen in coastal areas. The East Scotland branch, along with the Moths Count team, wants to learn more about where it occurs and this is most easily done by spotting the colourful orange and black caterpillars which feed on ragwort leaves, often in such large numbers that they strip the plants completely. The caterpillars can be seen in July and August; the equally striking adult moth has a long flight season and, because it is easily disturbed during the day and will fly when it’s sunny, may also be recorded during the same period.


Postcards showing both the larva and adult have been widely distributed over recent weeks and further publicity is planned. People are being asked to send in any sightings using either the postcards or directly by e-mail to Barry Prater, the Moth Recorder for VC81, Berwickshire (


During 2009 the survey will be focused on the Scottish Borders region, but records from anywhere in Scotland would be greatly appreciated. If the project proves successful this year then there is the possibility of extending the distribution of postcards elsewhere in Scotland in subsequent years. One of the objectives of the survey is to highlight the issue of moth conservation in the context of the overall pressure on biodiversity.


The reliance of Cinnabar larvae on the widespread but controversial plant ragwort, known to be toxic to horses, may raise conflicts of interest, but a very helpful leaflet ‘Ragwort Friend or Foe’, prepared jointly by Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife and the British Horse Society is available from the BC Scotland page of the main BC website. The leaflet outlines the benefits and problems of ragwort and gives advice on its management.


Anyone who lives in Scotland or others who visit the country this summer can help by taking part in the survey.


Barry Prater

East Scotland Branch – Borders Sub-Group


Credit - Mark Parsons

Credit - Mark Parsons


Cinnabar caterpillars -  Credit:  Barry Prater

Cinnabar caterpillars - Credit: Barry Prater



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  1. A cinnabar moth has been seen and identified today’7july 2015,@ the grove allotment off astwood road in Worcester by Trevor Brooke’s of Worcester.

    Comment by t brookes — July 8, 2015 @ 8:41 pm

  2. 18/07/15. Catapiller and adult seen Aylesbury Buckinghamshire.

    Comment by Ted harte — July 18, 2015 @ 4:09 pm

  3. Cinnabar caterpillars in my lawn , Bewbush Crawley West Sussex

    Comment by Andy — July 19, 2015 @ 9:50 am

  4. Also found vapour moth caterpillars on my raspberry bushes

    Comment by Andy — July 19, 2015 @ 9:52 am

  5. Cinnabar moth caterpillars seen in a garden in Elvaston Lane, Alvaston, Derby DE24 0PX - about 10 on ragwort - 16 August 2015.

    Comment by Roger Varney — August 16, 2015 @ 3:08 pm

  6. Caterpillars seen in the garden of Canons Ashby, National Trust, Northampton, NN11 3SD. 2/9/2015

    Comment by Gordon Ball — September 5, 2015 @ 10:51 pm

  7. Saw at least 2 cinnabar moths in Ashton Bristol in June 2016.

    Comment by Tony Hewitt — June 12, 2016 @ 7:32 pm

  8. a single Cinnabar caterpillar is in a plantpot in my backgarden in Birkenhead Wirral,,,today 14th july 2016,,,,havent seen one for ages…great to see.

    Comment by tony — July 14, 2016 @ 3:09 pm

  9. my farther has them in his garden feeding on a large rag root is pretty much covered in them.and he is from Hartford shire.

    Comment by john — July 16, 2016 @ 12:15 pm

  10. Spotted cinnabar caterpillars at monkey world roaming freely so not a feature there in dorset.

    27th july 2016

    Comment by Maria — July 28, 2016 @ 6:47 pm

  11. Spotted cinnabar larvae at north coast of Arran today.

    Comment by Kathryn — August 1, 2016 @ 8:42 pm

  12. We have several cinnabar caterpillars in our garden and on waste ground next door - all on ragwort plants.(Selston Nottinghamshire

    Comment by sylvia campbell — August 29, 2016 @ 11:51 am

  13. Very cute cinnabar caterpillar spotted today 31/8/2016 on saltburn beach north yorkshire

    Comment by Rowan — August 31, 2016 @ 10:23 pm

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  20. Cinnabar caterpillar……My grandchildren found five of these in garden in Innerleithen Scottish Borders. Sunday 8 July 2018

    Comment by Jean Scott — July 8, 2018 @ 3:17 pm

  21. lots of Cinabar caterpillars on ragwort in Corncockle Quarry near Templand Lockerbie 22nd July 2018

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  23. hundreds of cinabars at york university grounds and i mean hundreds

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