Their English name is derived from the males of the spp. humuli which are entirely white, however, the females are larger with a striking yellow forewing with distinctive orange markings. The Shetland spp. thulensis is smaller with a creamy white forewing marked with brown. When at rest they hold their elongated wings almost vertically against their body.

The adults have short antennae and have no functioning mouthparts so cannot feed. The males have a swaying flight display which is used at dusk to attract females. The caterpillars can be found from July to May, often overwintering twice as larvae so the life cycle commonly takes two years to complete.

Size and Family

  • Family – Swift moths (Helialidae)
  • Medium Sized
  • Wingspan Range – 42-70mm

Conservation status

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

Caterpillar Food Plants

The roots of grasses and a variety of cultivated herbaceous plants including Common Nettle (Urtica dioica), docks, burdocks and Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca).


Grassy and weedy places in woodland and open areas.


  • Countries – England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland
  • Well distributed throughout Great Britain and Ireland including the Isle of Man.
Ghost moth (female) - nutmeg66

Ghost moth (female)

Ghost moth (male) - Adam Gor

Ghost moth (male)

Ghost moth (female) - Iain Leach

Ghost moth (female)

Ghost moth (male) - Ben Sale

Ghost moth (male)

Ghost Moth

Ghost Moth

Ghost moth (female/eggs) - Ilia Ustyantsev

Ghost moth (female/eggs)

Ghost moth (female & male) - Mark Joy

Ghost moth (female & male)

Ghost moth (eggs) - Ilia Ustyantsev

Ghost moth (eggs)