When we think of beautifully coloured insects, we tend to think of butterflies, but Cornwall also has some mighty fine moths, and they don’t all eat clothes! There are 2,500 species of moths in the UK – and only 2 eat clothing. Many moths are just as beautiful as butterflies. However, they are also vital to conservation. They drink nectar and help pollinate plants, for example. They also make a tasty treat for birds and bats.
In 2019, a rare one returned to Cornwall for the first time in over ten years. This was the elusive Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth, which you are most likely to see on Bodmin Moor.
As you go walking, keep your eyes peeled for the dramatic black and red Cinnabar moth which grows from black and yellow caterpillars often found on ragwort from May to August. Their bright colours act as a warning to predators because they are poisonous if eaten.
The Brimstone moth is an amazing sight. Sulphur-yellow with distinctive brown and white spots, it is night-flying, but fairly common in woods, scrubland and grasslands, along with gardens from April to October. Meanwhile, the Magpie moth looks like leopard-print. Very distinctive, it has white wings with striking black and yellow spots, around in July-August. The Garden Tiger Moth is a little similar, but likes hedges and meadows, usually seen from July to August.
The Emperor moth is not remotely colourful being grey-brown but it has characterful big eye spots on each of its four wings, rather like a peacock. You may see one from March to May (though they are not common) and they like sand dunes.
For the largest UK moth, keep a look out for a Privet Hawk moth which has a wingspan of between 9am and 12cm. June and July are the best times to spot them and they do enjoy moorland.
You can find out more about moths in Cornwall here.