Six spot burnet moth

This is a six spot burnet moth (Zygaena filipendulae), a dayflying nectar feeder, photographed on the reserve’s plentiful, nectar-rich, tufted vetch.

We hope that this particular six spot burnet moth is a female that has come to lay her eggs on the bird’s foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) in Village Green, a species of legume we have been encouraging for several years to attract common blue butterflies and perhaps even the rare wood white. Common bird’s foot trefoil is, almost exclusively, the food plant of the six spot burnet’s caterpillars

[1] six spot burnet moth caterpillar by Peter O’Connor (CC BY-SA 2.0) [2] bird’s foot trefoil (CC0) [3] six spot burnet moth by Clive Knight (SCPLNR 30.06.2021)

That’s how biodiversity works: we prepare the ground, remove the alien invaders, and encourage flowering plants (both rare orchids and common trefoils) into the reserve’s hayfields where Lepidoptera come looking for exactly the right plant on which to lay their eggs. Hawking birds and all kinds of spiders come to hunt the moths and butterflies; ladybirds and ants take the eggs; small mammals, hedgehogs, blackbirds, various insects and a dozen different species of parasitoids come for the caterpillars.

In turn, all these predators become prey for something bigger, faster, smarter: raptors come to hunt our little insectivorous birds, foxes come for the mice, European hornets hunt parasitic wasps in the oak trees.

So a six spot burnet moth is not just a pretty photo opportunity: it is one important element of the reserve’s increasingly complex biodiversity.

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