Ruby tiger moth

Posted: Wednesday 22 May 2013
by Richard Jones

I have to admit, I do have some slightly unusual behavioural traits. I enjoy clattering down the pavement on my daughter’s old chrome microscooter...

I have to admit, I do have some slightly unusual behavioural traits. I enjoy clattering down the pavement on my daughter’s old chrome microscooter, although only my 8-year-old son will be seen with me, and only if he is riding his bike. I like bow-ties, but only in discrete burgundy or navy blue, with extremely subtle spot patterns. I am rather nosy and have a tendency to stare. Oh, and I like insects. So when the cry is uttered from the end of the garden: “Weird red bug”, there is only one response, I quickly rush to the spot armed with a Petri dish.

A paint kettle has been upended over the bug of weird redness in question. Carefully lifting it off, I am met with a ruby tiger moth — lovely.

Ruby tiger moth (Phragmatobia fuliginosa) is a common insect, but one I have not seen for some time, indeed, probably not since finding it in my parents’ garden 40 years ago. The small bristly black and brown boot-brush of a caterpillar eats almost anything, and it is quite at home in downland, heaths, woods, parks and gardens. My lack of ruby tiger observations over the decades has more to do with me overlooking it, rather than any decline.

Unlike some of the other tiger moths (garden tiger or Jersey tiger) it is sombrely coloured in muted sooty rust and diminutively sized. But as it flicks open its front wings a dash of brighter red is revealed below. This one is, I think, a female. Unlike some moths, male rubies do not have the broad feathery antennae, but the stout red abdomen seems especially plump — probably full of eggs.

After freeing it from its kettle container, we release it into the ivy in the hope that it can attract a mate and lay its eggs there. Next year I’m expecting a red mist of them out there.

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Lu 03/06/2013 at 22:25

I seen this moth last year in my garden, I have never seen one before, unfortunately it was died. you say it is a common insect I have never hard of it, I wonder if I will see it this year! it was nice to see your picture, because it reminded me that I had seen one like it.

granma 06/06/2013 at 19:57

The Ruby moth is beautiful  , I first  saw one a few years ago and have not seen one since .The iridescant  sheen of the partly closed  wings has come out well . When its wings are fully open, apart from its plumpish tummy it can be mistaken for a very attractive  butterfly. Just shows what beauty lies beneath the wings!

Tracey Fishburn 05/10/2014 at 19:32

My son has found a caterpillar which is black & very hairy. We live in the North East England. We have tried to research what type this is & we think it may be a Ruby Tiger Moth caterpillar ???

nutcutlet 05/10/2014 at 19:34

It might be Tracey. But it might not be, there are many. Have you a photo?