Northern Ireland's Priority Species

Tyria jacobaeae – cinnabar

 
Tyria jacobaeae
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Tyria jacobaeae (Linnaeus, 1758)
Family: Arctiidae

The Cinnabar is probably one of our most distinctive moths both as adult and caterpillar. The forewing of the adult is a dull greyish colour. On the wing there is a red line running parallel with the leading edge and two red spots at the end. The hind-wing is a bright pinkish-red. The caterpillars are found on their food-plant, ragwort, and are alternately banded black and yellow/orange. The adults fly from May into August, whereas caterpillars can be found July to September. The adult is easily disturbed in the daytime and freely comes to light. The moth can be found just about anywhere that ragwort occurs. This species has undergone a 71% decline in the UK over the last 25 years.

In brief

  • Relatively common across Northern Ireland
  • It is a Northern Ireland Priority Species because of declines detected in other parts of the UK where it has undergone a 71% decline over a 25 year period

Species description
A medium sized moth. The forewing of the adult is greyish in colour. On the wing there is a red line running parallel with the leading edge and two red spots at the end of the wing. The hind-wing is a bright pinkish-red which is often exposed at rest. The caterpillars are found communally on their food-plant, ragwort, and are alternately banded with black and yellow/orange hoops.

Life cycle
The caterpillars feed communally on ragwort from July to September. The adult emerges in May and is on the wing throughout August. The over-wintering pupa is located inside a flimsy cocoon just under the soil surface.

Similar species
The adult is unmistakable although there can be some confusion with the similarly coloured Burnet moths. The latter have very different patterns of red spots on a glossy black background and no red line. The caterpillars of the Cinnabar are unmistakable.

How to see this species
Present in all counties and in a wide variety of habitats such as roadside verges, semi-improved fields, sand dunes and waste ground, in fact just about anywhere that its food-plant, ragwort, grows.

Current status
Relatively common throughout Northern Ireland.

Why is this species a priority in Northern Ireland?

  • Listed as a UK Priority Species and therefore on the Northern Ireland Priority List by default
  • Rapid decline (71% over 25 years 1968-2002) assessed using Rothamstead trap data

Threats/Causes of decline
It is thought to be declining in the UK as a result of many factors, including habitat change, pollution and the use of pesticides. Large scale removal of ragwort for agricultural reasons will have a negative impact on this species. Ragwort is listed as a noxious weed (Noxious Weeds (Northern Ireland) Order 1977) and for this reason there has been a degree of hysteria as to what should and should not be done in terms of control. Information on this issue is listed in Links below.

Conservation of this species

Current action
In Northern Ireland there are no specific actions proposed for this species other than to continue to gather records.

  • Encourage submission of records

Proposed objectives/actions

  • None currently proposed

What you can do

  • Report all moth sightings to the Moth Recorder for Northern Ireland, Andrew Crory, andrew.crory@gmail.com or use the Butterfly Conservation Northern Ireland (BCNI) sightings web page at http://www.bcni.org.uk/submitsighting.php. The BCNI database is managed by CEDaR and these records will then be used to update the Butterflies and Moths of Northern Ireland website.
  • Join Butterfly Conservation. Butterflies and Moths are in serious decline — with your support Butterfly Conservation can take action to reverse this.

Further information

Links
The Butterflies and Moths of Northern Ireland

MothsIreland Website

The state of Britain's moths - an explanation as to how declines have been calculated

Background information on the Rothamstead Trap Surveys

UK Moths Website with an up-to-date distribution map

Ragwort facts from a scientific perspective

DARD website - information on ragwort control

DARD noxious weeds factsheet

Literature
Thompson, R. & Nelson, B. (2006). The Butterflies and Moths of Northern Ireland. NMNI, Belfast.
Waring, P. & Townsend, M. (2009). 2nd edition. Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland. British Wildlife.

Text written by:
Allen & Mellon