Posted: 05/08/2014 at 23:14
I was aware Ragwort was toxic to animals but didn't know it was the only food plant of the cinnabar moth. Photo captures of its caterpillars feeding on it and an ID search after brought me to this moth. The photo below is not the best due to wind movement this day but for anyone else reading this forum post it might be interesting to see.
My sighting of ragwort above was in sand dunes at a beach a short distance along from St Andrews in Scotland. In all my visits to this coastal strip I had never noticed the many feeding caterpillars on this plant. In fact I had never really taken a second look at the Ragwort.
Two weeks later we returned on another visit (this time armed with a video camera to capture the many feeding caterpillars for my blog) to find the same area of Ragwort striped of leaves and flowers with only main stems left! These caterpillars could be one of nature's way of controlling this plant pest - although in reality no match for the growth a spread of this plant.
Small tortoiseshells caught my eye this time and following one with my camera I found it feeding on a new patch of Ragwort and there I found the cinnabar moth caterpillars once again - even more of them!
I captured a great piece of video footage of the small tortoiseshell appearing to deliberately knock of one of the caterpillars off the Ragwort and feed where it was (must get it uploaded one night). I also spotted Ringlet butterflies feeding on ragort on this coastal location too. It's great what you discover when out with a camera