Day-flying moths

In Britain and Ireland there are around 2,500 moths, with 900 being considered large moths (macro-moths). When thinking about these invertebrates, its likely you’ll imagine them fluttering around at night bumping into lights. This is mostly true, but in reality, not all moths are night flying. Around 130 species of macro-moths are day-flying, playing an important ecological role pollinating plants and providing a food source for bats, birds and small mammals. These day-flying moths are usually quite colourful and can be easily mistaken for butterflies. 

In this guide, we will help you identify a few of our favourite day-flying macro-moths you can find while out and about on your woodland walks.

Its hard to miss the cinnabar moth with its bright red underwings and black forewings with red markings. They can be spotted mostly in grasslands but can also be seen on woodland rides, in gardens and scrubby areas. Did you know that they absorb toxins from their foodplants and their bright colour is a warning to predators that they are poisonous. Look out for them in May -August.
A cinnabar moth on a strand of grass
The pattern on the wings is often described as looking like a witch's face, and therefore is named after witch of legend, Mother Shipton, who lived in Yorkshire in the 16th Century. The Mother Shipton moth is seen on the wing from May to September and can been found flying short distances between flowers. Look out for them in May -July.
A Mother Shipton moth sat on a finger
Burnet companion moths can be seen over May and June where they often only take short flights between flowers in meadows, flower-rich verges and open woodland. They get their name as they are often in the company of burnet and Mother Shipton moths. Look out for them in May - July.
Burnet Companion on grass
The colours and markings resemble seashells giving the yellow shell moth its name. They are on the wing through July and August and can be seen in a variety of habitats especially in damper areas. There can be some variations in colours from brighter yellows to browns. Look out for them in July - August.
Yellow shell moth on a piece of grass
The scarlett tiger moth is very distinctive with beautifully bright red underwings and a greenish tint to the black forewings. You can spot these throughout May and June in damp areas including wetlands and river banks. They frequently fly on sunny afternoons and rest on leaves. It is one of the few tiger moths that have developed a mouth piece allowing them to feed on nectar. Look out for them in May - June.
Scarlet Tiger Moth
The six-spot burnet moth is common across Warwickshire in grasslands often collecting nectar from flowering knapweed and thistle heads. They have a fuzzy black body and quirky antennae and as the name suggests, six red spots are found on the blue shimmery forewings. Similarly to many other bright colours in nature, it is warning sign to predators as this moth can convert toxins from a caterpillars foodplant into cyanide. Look out for them in June - August.
Six-spot burnet moth nectaring on knapweed
The humming-bird hawk-moth has a striking appearance and is often seen hovering, like a hummingbird, over flowers, feeding with its long proboscis. They feed on the nectar of honeysuckle, red valerian and other flowers. They can be found along woodland edges, and on heathland and scrub. Last year they were spotted in the Dorsington area of the Forest. Look out for them in March - November.
A humming-bird hawk-moth taking nectar from a purple flower
As the name suggests, the latticed heath moth has a latticed appearance created by dark crossed lines and veins on the paler background colour on the upper and underside of the wings. They can be found in open ground, including gardens, waste ground, calcareous grassland, open woodland and heathland. Look out for them in May - September.
A latticed heath moth on a blade of grass
The narrow-bordered five-spot burnet is longer and more pointed than the closely related five-spot burnet. It flies in sunshine and is attracted to a range of flowers, including thistles, knapweeds, and scabious. Look out for them in June - August.
A narrow five spotted burnet moth on a purple clover
The male emperor moth has a feathered antennae whereas the female is larger and paler in colour. They can be spotted in a whole range of habitats and have been seen in the Forest in Honeybourne in previous years. The males can be seen flying during the day whilst the females rest in low vegetation. They're easily identified as they're the only large moth with big peacock-like eyespots on all four wings and pinky-red markings at the wingtips. Look out for them in April - May.
A male emperor moth on the grassy floor of the Forest - Shutterstock