The caterpillars of this delicately patterned moth depend on Barberry plants for their survival. Barberry (Berberis vulgaris) is not generally thought to be native to Britain but it was once planted widely as a hedgerow shrub as it grows densely and has sharp spines. However, in the 19th century it was discovered that the plant is a host for a fungus that causes stem rust, which damages wheat crops. As a result, Barberry was removed in many areas and the moth population declined.
This rather small moth is usually very distinctively marked with two broad purple bars crossing the forewings, one in the middle and one down the edge. The background colour is olive-brown, sometimes the purple coloured bars are replaced by darker brown.
It flies very actively by day flitting from flower to flower in sunshine, but sometimes also flies at night.
This brightly coloured small moth is most frequently pink with yellow patches and margins, and a fine purple border. However, almost entirely pink individuals with small yellow spots can occur.
Flies from dusk onwards, but is easily disturbed from vegetation during the day.
Size and Family
- Family – Waves (Sterrhines)
- Small Sized
- UK BAP: Not listed
- Scarce ( Nationally Scarce B)
Particular Caterpillar Food Plants
There are a few related species similar to this dainty little moth, although it is distinguished from these by its generally darker and more unicolorous forewing with the single conspicuous golden yellow spot.
There are two generations, occurring from mid-April to June and again from July to mid-September. It has also been found in mid-March and sometimes into early October. Flies actively in sunshine and also at night. During the day adults are often found sitting on the leaves of Mint or related species.
The female is larger than the male with slightly different markings, has a paler colour and does not have feathered antennae (unlike the male). Northern or upland examples are more intensely coloured, with the female bluish-grey. The adult females fly at night when they occasionally come to light, usually early in the night.
This magnificent butterfly flies high in the tree-tops of well-wooded landscapes in central-southern England where it feeds on aphid honeydew and tree sap. The adults are extremely elusive and occur at low densities over large areas. The males occasionally descend to the ground, usually in mid-morning, where they probe for salts either from road surfaces or from animal dung.
This handsome butterfly is widely distributed throughout southern areas wherever there are oak trees; even a solitary tree may support a colony. It is frequently overlooked as adults remain largely in the canopy where the main adult food source is honeydew; they fly more commonly in the evening of a warm summer's day. They are only driven down to seek fluid and nectar during prolonged drought, as occurred in 1995-6.