White Ermine moth Spilosoma lubricipeda © 2008 Steve Ogden White Ermine moths Spilosoma lubricipeda © 2008 Steve Ogden

The White Ermine Moth, Spilosoma lubricipedia

The White Ermine Moth is a common species throughout much of the British Isles. The species flies mainly in a single generation from May to July with an occasional second generation in southern regions.

The adult moth has a wingspan of approximately 40 mm. Forewings are white with a variable number of black spots.

Both male and females are attracted to light.

White Ermine fully grown larva Spilosoma lubricipeda © 2009 Steve OgdenWhite Ermine caterpillar (Spilosoma lubricipeda) Maidstone Kent photo Kirsty Simpson

White Ermine (Spilosoma lubricipeda) and Buff Ermine (Spilosoma luteum) caterpillars © 2007 Steve Ogden

The White Ermine caterpillar, Spilosoma lubricipedia

The White Ermine caterpillars grow to approximately 40 mm in length, feed on a wide variety of herbaceous plants and are very easy to rear.

The colour of the dorsal line of the fully grown caterpillar may be either red, orange or quite pale

They are often seen racing over the ground in search of a pupating site where the overwintering cocoons are formed amongst plant and leaf litter.

The fully grown caterpillar of the closely related Buff Ermine is shown above left next to the fully grown White Ermine caterpillar.

The similar Water Ermine, Spilosoma urticae, is a localised species largely restricted to fens, marshland and coastal areas in the south east of the UK.

White Ermine caterpillar Spilosoma lubricipeda © 2015 Laura O'DonoghueWhite Ermine (Spilosoma lubricipeda) fully grown larva with pale dorsal line © 2007 Steve Ogden

More caterpillars can be seen in the Moth Caterpillar Gallery and hairy caterpillar guide.

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.