The Gothic attracted to light in Cornwall, UK

The Gothic moth is well distributed throughout much of the British Isles.

The species is found in a variety of habitats including gardens and woodland but shows a preference to damp and wetland areas.

It has a wingspan of approx 37mm and flies at night between June and August when it is occasionally attracted to light.

The adult moth shown was attracted to an MV light in North Cornwall.

The Gothic Moth caterpillar

Part of a Gothic brood found on rhubarb and reared through by Jim and Annette Hutchinson in Lancaster
Part of a Gothic brood found on rhubarb and reared through by Jim and Annette Hutchinson in Lancaster

The caterpillars feed on a variety of herbaceous and woody plants including plantain, dock, dandelion, blackthorn and sallows.

The caterpillars overwinter as late instar caterpillars during which time they continue feeding in mild weather, becoming more active as the temperature warms up.

The larvae are nocturnal feeders and not frequently observed during the day.

Identification of the Gothic Moth caterpillar

At a glance this is a pretty uninspiring looking caterpillar and similar to several other noctuid moth caterpillars.

The fully grown caterpillar reaches 45 mm in length and has variable dull cloudy shades of reddy brown, grey and sometimes hints of green. Perhaps the most obvious feature that can help identification are the orange spiracles.

The caterpillar of the Old Lady, Mormo maura, is similar, also having orange spiracles but is much larger, reaching 60-70mm in length and has other helpful distinguishing features.

Other caterpillars can be seen in the gallery of British moth caterpillars

Reference books

To supplement information gained through personal studies the following books have been consulted:

  • The colour identification guide to caterpillars of the British Isles by Jim Porter.
  • Field guide to the moths of Great Britain and Ireland by Waring, Townsend and Lewington.
  • The Provisional Atlas of the UK’s Larger Moths by Hill, Randle and Parsons.