Over 800 species of moth have been recorded on the common, including many that are usually found only on coastal sandy areas or are heathland specialists such as Fox Moth, Archer’s Dart, Dotted Border Wave, Beautiful Yellow Underwing, Beautiful Brocade and Annulet. Many of the moths can only be seen at night, and recorded by moth trapping, but there are a number of day flying moths. The most important of these is the Emperor Moth, a spectacular moth of heathland and moors, which can be seen in April and May. Other day flying moths that can be seen on the common include: Common Heath, Mother Shipton, Brown Silver- line, Silver Y, Beautiful Yellow Underwing, Six- spot Burnet, Narrow- bordered Five- spot Burnet and Cinnabar.
Archer’s Dart (Agrotis vestigialis)
This stunning moth has a local distribution, usually found around the coast of Britain and some inland heaths. The adult can be found on the common from late July through to September. It feeds on the flowers of Ragwort and Heathers, sometimes during the day. It was attracted to lights in good numbers at an August moth trapping event on the Common.
Brown Silver-line (Petrophora chlorosata)
This well marked moth is frequently found on the Common, it flies by day and can usually be seen wherever there is Bracken. May and June is the flight period.
Burnet Companion (Euclidia glyphica)
This pretty little moth is often seen flying in grassland and can be mistaken for a small butterfly at first glance. The flight period is May until July and the larva feed on a variety of plants, such as Clover, Bird’s – foot Trefoil and Tufted Vetch.
Common Heath (Ematurga atomaria)
This moth is common throughout Britain, and appears in May and June, sometimes again in August. It inhabits heaths, moorland and open woodland, and is rather variable. It flies during the day, especially in sunshine.
The caterpillars, feed on heather, heath and clovers.
Cinnabar (Tyria jacobaeae)
This is another day flying moth which can easily be mistaken for a butterfly! Its black and red markings really make it stand out on a sunny day between the middle of May until August, and the larva are also very striking. They emerge from eggs laid on ragwort and the bright yellow and black colouring of the caterpillars deters predators, who may think they are a juicy morsel until they try taking a bite. The poison from the ragwort gives the caterpillars a really nasty taste and birds will recognise them in future and avoid eating them. If you find a ragwort plant, try looking for the larva, they can strip all the leaves before wandering off to pupate.
Emperor Moth (Saturnia pavonia)
The Emperor is a spectacular moth of heathland and moors, which can be seen in April and May. The males fly during the day in search of females, although they are rapid and easy to mistake for the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly. The caterpillar is green with black hoops and yellow wart like spots and can be seen on heather between late May and August. If you spot an Emperor Moth or the caterpillar on the common please let us know.
Heather Knot-horn (Pempelia palumbella)
This little moth is closely associated with heather and is considered to be a ‘local’ species, meaning not that common. When at rest on a heather stem it can be hard to spot but is easily disturbed on a sunny day. It is on the wing from June to September and its larva feed within a web amongst the heather.
Mother Shipton (Euclidia mi)
This moth is named after a 16th witch who lived in Yorkshire and if you look at the pattern on the wing you can see the witch’s face! It flies from early May to early July and only flies for short distances, when it’s sunny. It particularly likes to nectar on the flowers of Oxeye Daisy and Red Clover, and Clover, Black Medick and Bird’s- foot Trefoil are the food plants of the larva.
Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet (Zygaena lonicerae)
These attractive moths fly in late June to July, often during the day, settling to nectar from Devil’s Bit Scabious and many other flowers. They are sometimes seen resting on tall grasses and you may notice the pale papery looking cocoons from which they have emerged. This is a common moth of dry grassland, uncut verges and woodland rides.
Six-spot Burnet (Zygaena filipendulae)
Another Burnet moth, this time with six separate red dots on each forewing. The flight period is slightly longer, from late June to August and it also visits flowers such as knapweed, thistles and scabious. If you look closely at tall grasses you may find a newly emerged female mating with a male next to its papery cocoon.
Yellow-legged Clearwing (Synanthedon vespiformis)
The Yellow- legged Clearwing is a wasp- mimic moth. It is a day- flying species on the wing between May and July, It’s larva live and feed within tree stumps (mainly Oak) for two years before emerging. During their flight season the adults may sometimes be seen flitting around in clearings with such tree stumps.