Zygaenidae (Forester & burnet moths)

This family comprises about 800 species worldwide. There are ten species recorded in the Great Britain and Ireland. Typically, these moths live in colonies, sometimes rather isolated from one another for many generations, and as a consequence a number of differences have evolved between populations, some of which are recognised as races or subspecies.

The adults are active mainly by day and their flights are generally rather direct. All have round-tipped, rather narrow forewings which are held at a steep angle quite close to the body when at rest, and stout antennae which are always forward-pointed and in some cases clubbed, rather like those of butterflies. Both adults and larvae are toxic to non-insect predators, releasing poisons such as hydrogen cyanide when attacked. Forester moths are not, infact, particularly associated with woodland and the name is most probably derived from ‘Lincoln Green’, the colour supposedly worn by medieval foresters in Sherwood Forest.

They regularly visit flowers in open habitats, particularly rough grassland. The larvae feed mainly on herbaceous plants, often members of the pea family. The whitish, tapering, papery cocoons are usually formed low down in the vegetation, but those of some burnet moths are spun high along grass stems, and are rather conspicuous. (Taken from Waring and Townsend’s Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland)