Jersey Tiger Moth (Euplagia quadripunctaria)
The Jersey Tiger Moth is an extremely localised species in the UK, most frequent in south coastal areas, with main colonies between Devon and Hampshire including the Isle of Wight. In recent years inland colonies have become established in parts of Somerset and London.
Isolated records are thought likely to be migrants crossing the English Channel from continental Europe.
2019 update – an unusually large influx of migrant Jersey Tigers was recorded in the southern half of the UK. These, combined with resident populations, resulted in unusually large numbers being recorded, particularly in the south east.
2020 update – overwintered caterpillars from eggs laid by 2019 migrants were found in South West Cornish garden. Later on, in July/early August, several Jersey Tiger were seen flying during the day and attracted to light in the same garden. Exceptionally large numbers were recorded in the South East of England.
The Jersey Tiger Moth featured was sighted by John Hooton nectaring in his garden in Croydon, South London in 2013.
More recently there have been other sightings of this species in this area and John confirmed a local breeding population by finding the Jersey Tiger caterpillar featured below and photographed by his friend Wayne Notley.
The moths fly both during the day and night in a single generation between July-September.
The insects are attracted to light at night but may also be seen during the day feeding at flowerheads such as buddleias.
Habitats include rough, uncultivated coastal areas and urban gardens.
The Jersey Tiger Moth has a wingspan of c 60 mm and is easily identified from other Tiger Moths by the creamy, white stripes streaking its dark forewing.
Underwings can be either yellow with black spots, f.lutescens or bold red/orange with black spots as in nominate form E. quadipunctaria featured below.
Jersey Tiger Moth caterpillar (Euplagia quadripunctaria)
The Jersey Tiger caterpillar is c 50 mm long, with a dark body, a broad yellowy/orange dorsal stripe, a paler broken side stripe, black head and distinctive orange brown pinaculae from which sprout light brown setae.
Other Tiger Moth caterpillars are featured in the –
Eggs are laid on the larval foodplant.
Those shown were laid by a migrant attracted to light in south west Cornwall
The larval foodplants are varied and include many low growing herbaceous plants often considered weeds such as dandelion, nettles and plantain.
The caterpillars overwinter when very small, becoming fully grown by the following May/June.
The recently hatched caterpillar featured left was reared from an egg laid by one of several migrant Jersey Tiger Moths attracted to light in a Cornish garden.
To overwinter, the caterpillar was placed outside on potted plantain and dandelion.
The garden is very sheltered, south facing and predominantly frost free.
By the middle of March the larva was 25 mm long and in its penultimate instar
Feeding signs showed a preference for young dandelion leaves.
Pupation takes places in a silk cocoon amongst plant/leaf litter.
The adult moth emerges in 4-6 weeks depending on temperature.
Rearing small, overwintering caterpillars can be difficult. This is best achieved by placing outside in a sheltered spot on a pot containing the larval foodplant.
Once overwintered the caterpillars are easy to rear.
The Jersey Tiger Moth caterpillar featured above left was found by Isobel and Livia McLachlan in their garden in Beckenham, Kent.
They successfully reared the caterpillar through and were delighted to see the colourful moth featured emerge from it’s cocoon formed in plant litter.
Once ready for flight the moth was released back into the garden.
Keith Parish found this Jersey Tiger caterpillar in his garden in Enfield, UK.
It was on a log beneath some Ivy suggesting it was searching for a place to pupate.
Recommended reference books
The Colour Identification Guide to Caterpillars of the British Isles – Jim Porter.
Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland – Waring, Townsend and Lewington.
Moths of the British Isles – Bernard Skinnner.
The Provisional Atlas of UK’s Larger moths -Randle, Fox and Parsons