Scarlet Tiger Moth: A Guide to its Habitat and Behavior

The Scarlet Tiger Moth, scientifically known as Callimorpha dominula, is a visually striking and captivating insect. Found primarily in Europe. This species of moth is known for its vibrant colors, which play a crucial role in its survival strategies.

Belonging to the family Erebidae. The Scarlet Tiger Moth is considered a member of the subfamily Arctiinae, which includes other vibrant and equally fascinating species.

Scarlet Tiger Moth on an Elder Flower

Characterized by their distinct black and yellow markings on their front wings, and vibrant red hind wings. The scarlet tiger moth has captured attention from both experts and nature enthusiasts alike.

These color patterns serve as a warning to potential predators, a form of protection known as aposematism. This mechanism relies on the combination of bright colors and contrasting patterns to signal toxicity or unpalatability, ultimately deterring potential threats.

One intriguing aspect of the Scarlet Tiger Moth’s life cycle is the caterpillar stage. The larvae are clothed in tufts of yellow and black hair, resembling the adult pattern. These caterpillars feed on a variety of plants, including comfrey, hemp nettle, and hound’s-tongue, eventually forming a cocoon and metamorphosing into the beautiful adult moths observed in the wild, showcasing the wonders of the insect world.

Physical Characteristics

Adult Moth

The Scarlet Tiger Moth, displays unique physical characteristics that set it apart from other moths. Its forewings are mainly black and covered in a metallic green sheen, giving it a striking appearance. Contrasting the dark forewings, the hindwings are brightly colored with a mixture of white and yellow.

The wingspan of an adult Scarlet Tiger Moth varies between 45 and 65 millimeters. Another distinct feature of these moths is the presence of yellow spots adorning their hindwings. The pattern of these spots may sometimes exhibit slight variations among individuals. Overall, the bold colors and patterns are believed to serve as a warning signal to potential predators.


The Scarlet Tiger Moth caterpillar also possesses some noticeable physical traits that differentiate it from other caterpillars. The body is predominantly black. Adorned with a series of small white dots and larger red or yellow markings, which grants the caterpillar its own unique appearance.

close up of a scarlet Tiger Moth Caterpillar

This vivid display may likewise function as a warning to predators, signifying the caterpillar’s unpalatability. As the caterpillar matures, it will ultimately reach a length of around 40mm before undergoing the transformation into an adult moth.

Habitat and Distribution

The Scarlet Tiger Moth (Callimorpha dominula) is predominantly found in damp areas across England and Wales. With its preferred habitat including fens, marshes, and coastal habitats.

The moth is particularly prevalent in south-west England, where it thrives in a variety of environments, from woodland edges to rocky cliffs. Additionally, the species has been observed in Jersey, extending its range further into the British Isles.

Within these diverse habitats, the caterpillars of the Scarlet Tiger Moth feed on a range of host plants. They are typically found in woodlands, where they feast on trees such as Salix species (willows) and Populus (poplars), as well as herbaceous plants like comfrey and nettles.

caterpillar of the scarlet tiger moth

The larvae prefer damp areas for their development, and while they can occasionally be found in drier woodland situations, they tend to thrive best in places where moisture is readily available. Thus, the Scarlet Tiger Moth has a strong association with marshland and fen habitats.

Despite its adaptability, the species is considered rare in certain parts of its range. For example, in north-west England, sightings of the Scarlet Tiger Moth have been infrequent, and the moth has yet to establish a strong presence in these regions. This can possibly be attributed to its preference for damp habitats, which are less common in those parts of the country.

In conclusion, the distribution and habitat preferences of the Scarlet Tiger Moth demonstrate its adaptability to various environments, from damp woodlands to rocky coastal cliffs. While its presence is widespread in England and Wales, certain regions, such as north-west England, still see the species as a relatively rare visitor.

Behavior and Life Cycle

The Scarlet Tiger Moth is a day-flying species, known for its striking and colorful appearance. This moth is commonly found in a variety of habitats, including woodland clearings, river banks, and gardens. They are mostly active during the day, with a preference for resting on leaves to avoid predators.

The life cycle of the Scarlet Tiger Moth begins in March, when females lay their eggs on the leaves of host plants like nettle, comfrey, and other local plants. By May and June, the caterpillars emerge and begin feeding on the leaves. While feeding, they utilize a protective coloration to blend in with their surroundings, which helps to keep them safe from predators.

moth eggs

As the caterpillars mature, they usually pupate in July, hanging from the host plant by a silky thread. In some cases, they may remain in this stage until the following spring, depending on various factors like temperature and food availability.

Once the adult moths emerge, they begin searching for mates. Males can typically be spotted flying around during the day, showcasing their distinctive wing patterns to attract females. After mating, the females start the cycle again by laying their eggs on suitable host plants.

The range of the Scarlet Tiger Moth spans across South Wales and other parts of the UK, making it a relatively localized species. They have a preference for nectar-rich flowers, which serve as their primary food source. By visiting gardens and river banks, these moths play an essential role in pollination within their ecosystems, helping to maintain the health and diversity of plant life in these areas.

Diet and Host Plants

The diet of the Scarlet Tiger Moth primarily consists of various herbaceous plants. The caterpillars, which are the larval stage of the moth, feed on these plants as they grow and develop. Some of the most common host plants for the Scarlet Tiger Moth caterpillars include:

  • Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)
  • Green Alkanet (Pentaglottis sempervirens)
  • Bramble (Rubus fruticosus)
  • Common Nettle (Urtica dioica)
  • Geranium (Geranium spp.)

Caterpillars of the Scarlet Tiger Moth exhibit a preference for common comfrey and green alkanet, but they will also consume bramble, common nettle, and various geranium species when other plant sources are unavailable. These host plants provide the necessary nutrients for the caterpillars to develop into healthy adult moths, ensuring the continuation of their species.

blackberries, bramble, berries-1539540.jpg

The adult Scarlet Tiger Moth, unlike its caterpillar stage, has a significantly different diet. Adult moths primarily feed on nectar from flowers, supplementing their diet with other sugary substances like honeydew. This change in diet correlates with the considerable change in the moth’s anatomy and behavior, transitioning from a plant-eating caterpillar to a nectar-dependent adult moth.

In conclusion, the dietary habits of Scarlet Tiger Moth play a crucial role in its growth, development, and survival. The caterpillars feed on a diverse range of host plants, with a preference for comfrey and green alkanet. While adult moths rely on nectar from flowers as their primary food source. This dietary strategy ensures a flourishing population of Scarlet Tiger Moths in various ecosystems across their geographic range.

Classification and Subspecies

The Scarlet Tiger Moth, scientifically known as Callimorpha dominula, belongs to the order Lepidoptera, which encompasses butterflies and moths. This species is part of the Arctiinae subfamily, which was previously classified under the family Arctiidae. However, recent revisions have placed this subfamily within the broader family Erebidae.

There are a few recognized subspecies of the Scarlet Tiger Moth, with certain variations in their coloration and distribution patterns. These subspecies include:

  • Callimorpha dominula dominula: This is the nominate subspecies, characterized by its dominantly black wings with cream-white spots. Its hindwings display a striking scarlet color with black spots.
  • Callimorpha dominula ligurica: Found in northwestern Italy, this subspecies exhibits a reddish hue on the forewings instead of the typical black coloration.
  • Callimorpha dominula amseli: This subspecies is native to Algeria and can be distinguished by the pale yellow color of the spots on its wings.

The taxonomic classification and subspecies information highlight the diversity and distribution of the Scarlet Tiger Moth and provide a framework to further study its biology, behavior, and potential conservation needs.

Tiger moth on a white background


The Scarlet Tiger Moth undergoes a pretty standard life cycle, which consists of several distinct stages. Including eggs, larvae, pupa, and finally, the adult moth.

In the first stage, adult female moths lay their eggs on plants that have suitable nutrient reserves for the developing larvae. Commonly preferred plant species include comfrey, cherry, and willow. The quantity of eggs laid varies from moth to moth, but usually, the number falls between 30 to 50.

Upon hatching from their eggs, larvae – known as caterpillars – emerge. They possess a striking appearance, adorned with distinct color patterns of black and yellow bands. During this stage, the caterpillars voraciously feed on the host plants to fuel their rapid growth.

As the caterpillars reach maturity, they seek a sheltered location to enter the pupa stage and spin their cocoon. Safe environments may include plant stems, leaves, or even the ground. Within the cocoon, the metamorphosis process occurs, during which the larva transforms into a chrysalis and then an adult moth.

Finally, the adult Scarlet Tiger Moth emerges from the cocoon after approximately two to four weeks. Showcasing their characteristic crimson wings adorned with black spots, these moths are ready to commence their short-lived adult lives. Adult moths primarily focus on reproduction, engaging in mating rituals and laying eggs, after which they only have a few days left before they pass away.

In conclusion, the reproduction cycle of the Scarlet Tiger Moth involves several stages – from egg to larva, pupa, and adult moth – each playing a critical role in the life cycle and continuation of the species.

Conservation Status and Threats

The Scarlet Tiger Moth (Callimorpha dominula) is a visually striking species that has caught the attention of conservationists and naturalists alike. Although not currently considered uncommon, the moth’s conservation status is worth discussing to offer insight into potential threats.

At present, the Scarlet Tiger Moth is classified as a species of “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List, which means that it faces no immediate dangers for extinction. The moth is relatively widespread across Europe, including the British Isles, and some parts of Asia.

However, like many other moth and butterfly species, the Scarlet Tiger Moth can still be affected by habitat loss. Their natural habitats include damp woodland clearings, wet meadows, and riverbanks. Destruction of these habitats, due to urbanization or agricultural practices, poses potential threats to the species.

scarlet tiger moth on my kitchen window

In terms of predators, the Scarlet Tiger Moth faces some risk from birds and bats, although they generally have fewer predators compared to other moth species. Their bright colors are believed to be an effective defense mechanism, a form of aposematism, which serves to warn potential predators of their unpalatability.

Despite being relatively resilient in the face of threats, it’s essential for conservation efforts to continue monitoring the moth’s populations and habitat conditions. This will enable early detection of any factors that could negatively impact the species, ensuring timely intervention if required.

Conservation strategies that benefit the Scarlet Tiger Moth include preserving their natural habitats and raising awareness about their ecological importance. Citizen science initiatives, such as local moth counts and population monitoring activities, can significantly contribute to the knowledge and protection of this fascinating species.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the habitat of the Scarlet Tiger Moth?

The Scarlet Tiger Moth (Callimorpha dominula) can be found in a variety of habitats. Including gardens, hedgerows, woodland edges, and meadows. They are primarily found in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom.

What do Scarlet Tiger Moth caterpillars feed on?

Scarlet Tiger Moth caterpillars primarily feed on plants from the Boraginaceae family, such as comfrey and forget-me-nots. They may also consume foliage from other plants like nettles, willowherbs, and hound’s-tongue.

How can I identify a Scarlet Tiger Moth?

Adult Scarlet Tiger Moths display striking colors with black forewings patterned with white spots and bright red or orange hindwings with black markings. Their wingspan ranges from 45 to 55 mm. The caterpillars are hairless with vibrant black and yellow stripes.

What is the lifecycle of the Scarlet Tiger Moth?

The Scarlet Tiger Moth follows a complete metamorphosis, consisting of egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (cocoon), and adult stages. Adults emerge in late spring to early summer and lay eggs on host plants. The caterpillars hatch and grow throughout the summer before pupating in autumn. They overwinter as pupae and emerge as adults the following year.

Are Scarlet Tiger Moths endangered?

Scarlet Tiger Moths are not currently considered endangered. However, their populations can be locally affected by habitat loss or pesticide use. Maintaining suitable habitats and reducing pesticide exposure can help support healthy populations.

What predators do Scarlet Tiger Moths face?

Predators of Scarlet Tiger Moths include birds, bats, and spiders. The moth’s bright warning colors serve as a defense mechanism, signaling to predators that they are unpalatable or toxic. This often deters potential attackers from attempting to consume them.bird eating a moth

Tom Watson