Burnet moths Zygaenidae are striking looking day flying moths. At rest they have rather a look of Darth Vader, wrapped in their glossy black cloak. They can be distinguished by the number, colour and pattern of spots on the wings. The larvae are green with black lengthwise bands (rather like Large White Pieris brassicae caterpillars). They are not easy to tell apart, but the papery cocoons attached to grass stems can be attributed to species sometimes based on how far up the stem they are.
Variable Burnet Zygaena ephialtes:
As the English name suggests this moth is extremely variable in appearance. The spots can be white, yellow or red and the hind wing may be black with a spot or entirely red or yellow. The spots on the forewing are arranged as a fused pair near the base and three in a triangle in the middle. The body has a coloured band. Do not confuse with the 6-spot Burnet Z. filipendulae, which always has pairs of spots and no coloured abdomenal band. The adults are on the wing from June to September. This is primarily an upland species, relatively uncommon here as we are lowland. It prefers scrubby slopes and the caterpillars feed on crown vetch and other legumes. The photos below were taken in June, near La Liege.
6-spot Burnet Zygaena filipendulae:
This species has 6 red (or occasionally, yellow) spots on each forewing, arranged in pairs. Sometimes a pair of spots is fused. The body is entirely glossy black. Common on flower rich grassland, especially at Scabious and Knapweed Centauria flowers. The adults are active from May to August, the larvae feed on trefoils and other legumes.
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