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Saturday, 11 August 2018

Tiger in the Garden
Jersey Tiger Moth by Colin Strudwick

Tiger in the Garden

Striking colours and bold patterns in moths are usually used to warn predators that the owner is advertising it's unpalatable nature. The bold colours in tiger moths warn that the moth is loaded with poisons and will not make a meal. The moth is able to extract some of the poisons from the larval food plant and also manufacture some from its own body. Some of the tiger moths also have a dense coat of hairs, making them even more unpalatable.

The U.K. has 6 species of tiger moth, the Garden Tiger is one of the better known and is on the wing in July and August. It's caterpillar is the well known 'woolly bear', sometimes seen crawling rapidly over pavements on hot days. They will eat practically any plants and are covered in long fine black and brown hairs, most birds would really leave them alone. Cuckoos, however seem to thrive on them!

The Scarlet Tiger moth is fairly common and sometimes found along riverbanks or wet places.The adult displays all the classic warning colours of black,white,yellow and red, even the caterpillar looks very unappetising with a black body,yellow stripes and tufts of dark hair.
The Cream-spot Tiger and Wood Tiger are both very handsome moths with a mixture of yellow and black variable spotting of the forewings. The hindwings ranging from yellow in the cream-spot tiger and red to white in the wood tiger. They are not really garden species and occur on heaths or open woodlands.
The Ruby Tiger is common to many habitats including gardens and is found throughout the UK from April to September. As the name suggests the colouration is brick-red on the forewings, with pink to almost grey on the hindwings. This colour can vary with specimens found in the north of the U.K. generally looking darker.

The sixth species the Jersey Tiger , I was surprised to find in my own garden in the first week of August and so I took this photo. It's usually confined to more southern counties, especially Dorset and Devon but maybe with this hot summer some have been moving further north. The diagonal stripes in black and cream are unmistakable and unlike the other five tigers. As it flew I could see the hindwings were bright red, however it only ever settled with the red hindwings covered, so I never got to view them closely.

Report by Colin Strudwick.