Cinnabar moth

Cinnabar moth
Cinnabar Moth
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Arctiidae
Genus: Tyria
Species: T. jacobaeae
Binomial name
Tyria jacobaeae
(Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Phalaena jacobaeae
  • Noctua jacobaeae
  • Tyria confluens
  • Callimorpha senecionis

The Cinnabar moth (Tyria jacobaeae) is a brightly coloured arctiid moth, found in Europe and western and central Asia. It has been introduced into New Zealand, Australia and North America to control poisonous ragwort, which its larvae feed on. The moth is named after the red mineral cinnabar because of the red patches on its predominantly black wings. Cinnabar moths are about 20mm long and have a wingspan of 32–42 mm (1.3-1.7 in).

Cinnabar moths are day-flying insects. Like many other brightly coloured moths, it is unpalatable; The larvae use members of the genus Senecio as foodplants. Many members of the genus have been recorded as foodplants but for long term population success the presence of the larger species such as ragwort is needed. Smaller plant species such as groundsel are sometimes used but since the species lays its eggs in large batches survival tends to be reduced. The larvae absorb bitter tasting alkaloid substances from the foodplants, and assimilate them, becoming unpalatable themselves.[1] The bright colours of both the larvae and the moths act as a warning sign so that they are seldom eaten by predators.

Like several other Arctiidae moth larvae, the Cinnabar caterpillars can turn cannibalistic. This can be due to lack of food, but they can eat other Cinnabar larvae for no apparent reason.[citation needed] Females lay up to 300 eggs, usually in clusters of 30 to 60. Initially the larvae are pale yellow but later larval stages develop the jet black and orange/yellow striped colouring.[2] They feed ravenously and can grow up to 30mm. Cinnabar caterpillars are voracious eaters and large populations can strip entire patches of ragwort clean, a result of their low predation.

Often very few survive to the pupa stage, mainly due to them completely consuming the food source before reaching maturity; this could be a possible explanation for their tendency to engage in seemingly random cannibalistic behaviour, as many will die from starvation.[citation needed]

The moth has proven to be particularly successful as a biocontrol agent for ragwort when used in conjunction with the ragwort flea beetle in the western United States.[3]


  1. ^ "Cinnabar moth". A Nature Observer′s Scrapbook. June 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-21. 
  2. ^ "Cinnabar Moth Life Cycle". HortFACT. HortNET. 1998. Retrieved 2007-12-21. 
  3. ^ Coombs, E. M., et al., Eds. (2004). Biological Control of Invasive Plants in the United States. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 344.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • cinnabar moth — noun large red and black European moth; larvae feed on leaves of ragwort; introduced into United States to control ragwort • Syn: ↑cinnabar, ↑Callimorpha jacobeae • Hypernyms: ↑arctiid, ↑arctiid moth • Member Holonyms: ↑Callimor …   Useful english dictionary

  • cinnabar moth — noun Date: circa 1893 a European moth (Tyria jacobaeae) that has been introduced into the western United States in attempts to control the tansy ragwort on which its larvae feed called also cinnabar …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • cinnabar — ► NOUN 1) a bright red mineral consisting of mercury sulphide. 2) (also cinnabar moth) a day flying moth with black and red wings. ORIGIN Greek kinnabari …   English terms dictionary

  • Cinnabar — This article is about the mineral. For the plant resin, see Dragon s blood. For the moth, see Cinnabar moth. Cinnabar Cinnabar on Dolomite General …   Wikipedia

  • cinnabar — [ sɪnəbα:] noun 1》 a bright red mineral consisting of mercury sulphide. 2》 (also cinnabar moth) a day flying moth with black and red wings. [Tyria jacobaeae.] Origin ME: from L. cinnabaris, from Gk kinnabari, of oriental origin …   English new terms dictionary

  • cinnabar — /ˈsɪnəba/ (say sinuhbah) noun 1. a mineral, mercuric sulphide, HgS, often vermilion coloured, the principal ore of mercury. 2. red mercuric sulphide, used as a pigment. 3. bright red; vermilion. 4. a large red European moth, Callimorpha jacobaeae …  

  • cinnabar — n. 1 a bright red mineral form of mercuric sulphide from which mercury is obtained. 2 vermilion. 3 a moth (Callimorpha jacobaeae) with reddish marked wings. Etymology: ME f. L cinnabaris f. Gk kinnabari, of oriental orig …   Useful english dictionary

  • arctiid moth — noun stout bodied broad winged moth with conspicuously striped or spotted wings; larvae are hairy caterpillars • Syn: ↑arctiid • Hypernyms: ↑moth • Hyponyms: ↑tiger moth, ↑cinnabar, ↑cinnabar moth, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • Senecio vulgaris — Common groundsel Scientific classification Kingdom: Plantae …   Wikipedia

  • arctiid — noun stout bodied broad winged moth with conspicuously striped or spotted wings; larvae are hairy caterpillars • Syn: ↑arctiid moth • Hypernyms: ↑moth • Hyponyms: ↑tiger moth, ↑cinnabar, ↑cinnabar moth, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

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