The forewings are a yellowish-buff to whitish-buff colour. The number and size of the black dots on the wings vary but a distinctive diagonal row of elongated spots running from the forewing tip to trailing edge can distinguish it from the White Ermine. A mostly black form has been bred in captivity but is much rarer in the wild.

The hairy larvae can be seen from July to October which then overwinters as pupae among plant debris.

Size and Family

  • Family – Tiger moths, ermines, footman moths and allies (Arctiidae)
  • Medium Sized
  • Wingspan Range – 34-44mm

Conservation Status

  • UK BAP: Priority species (Research only)
  • Common

Caterpillar Food Plants

A wide range of herbaceous plants, especially Common Nettle (Urtica dioica) and woody species including Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum), Hop (Humulus lupulus) and birches.


Found in most habitats including gardens, hedgerows, parks and woodland.


  • Countries – England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland
  • Common and well distributed throughout England, Wales, the Isle of Man, Scotland and the Channel Islands. Local in mainland Scotland but more frequent near the west coast. 
Buff Ermine - Heath McDonald

Buff Ermine

Buff Ermine - Heath McDonald

Buff Ermine

Buff Ermine - Ben Sale

Buff Ermine

Buff Ermine - Bob Eade

Buff Ermine

Buff Ermine - Dave Shenton

Buff Ermine

Buff Ermine (young caterpillars) - Patrick Clement

Buff Ermine (young caterpillars)

Buff Ermine (caterpillar) - Paul Davis

Buff Ermine (caterpillar)

Buff Ermine (caterpillar) - Patrick Clement

Buff Ermine (caterpillar)

Buff Ermine (spotless) - Tapio Kujala

Buff Ermine (spotless)

Similar species