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The Cinnabar Moth

Updated on September 12, 2014

Beautiful Cinnabar Moth

Source

A Day-Flying Moth

A not uncommon sight to see is that of a fluttering and bobbing butterfly dancing above fields of flowers and weeds.

Look closer at that butterfly though, that beautiful red and black butterfly may not be a butterfly at all, it may just be a Cinnabar Moth.

Cinnabar

The Cinnabar Moth is named after the mineral, Cinnabar, due to the red color on its wings. Another name for Cinnabar is red mercury sulfide or simply mercury ore.

It is commonly used for jewelry.

Cinnabar Bracelet

Candygem Red Cinnabar Chinese Carved Bangle Cuff Bracelet
Candygem Red Cinnabar Chinese Carved Bangle Cuff Bracelet

Feel like you're wearing a beautiful Cinnabar Moth by sporting this beautiful piece.

 

Size of the Cinnabar Moth

The Cinnabar Moth is an average size for a moth at about 20mm long,

They have a wingspan of 32-42 mm (1.3-1.7 in).

Size of Cinnabar Moth

Size of Cinnabar Moth
Size of Cinnabar Moth | Source

It's Not a Butterfly?

The Cinnabar Moth has such striking coloring, that many people mistake them for a butterfly, but they are moths. The upper pair of wings are dusky black with a vivid red strip running down the outer edge and two red dots on each wing on the bottom edge. The bottom pair of wings are that same vivid red with black rims. The Cinnabar Moth's body is black.

Red and Black Moth

Red and Black Cinnabar Moth
Red and Black Cinnabar Moth | Source

Cinnabar Moth Caterpillar

The Cinnabar caterpillar starts off pale yellow, then later becomes bright yellowish orange with jet black bands around it.

Yellow and Black Caterpillar

Yellow and Black Caterpillar
Yellow and Black Caterpillar | Source

Learn to Identify Caterpillars

Caterpillars in the Field and Garden: A Field Guide to the Butterfly Caterpillars of North America (Butterflies Through Binoculars)
Caterpillars in the Field and Garden: A Field Guide to the Butterfly Caterpillars of North America (Butterflies Through Binoculars)

There are so many varieties of caterpillar out there. Don't we all want to know what is crawling on our plants?

 

What They Eat

Cinnabar Moth caterpillars use the Senecio plant family as foodplants. Because they are voracious eaters, they were introduced to control ragwort and Tansy in some areas, including the Western US, especially the states of Washington and Oregon. This is called biologically controlling the pest plants. Since Cinnabar caterpillars eat so much, they can decimate entire areas of weeds, and then they may even turn on each other if there's nothing else to eat.

Cinnabar Caterpillars on Ragwort

Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars eating Oxford Ragwort, Towneley Park, Burnley
Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars eating Oxford Ragwort, Towneley Park, Burnley | Source

Cinnabar Caterpillars Eating Tansy

Yellow and Black Caterpillars on Tansy
Yellow and Black Caterpillars on Tansy | Source

Catch Butterflies, Caterpillars, and Bugs

Nick Jr. Dora Butterfly Net and Nursery
Nick Jr. Dora Butterfly Net and Nursery

Though it used to be common to have fun catching bugs when people were little, many children today don't get to enjoy this simple pastime. Let your kids see some of the beauty of nature by going out and catching bugs then getting a good look at them.

 

The Tyria jacobaeae

Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars Eating Tansy

These Cinnabar Moth caterpillars are biologically controlling Tansy on the Highlands Trail in Newcastle, Washington

Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars Silhouetted Against the Setting Sun

Cinnabar Caterpillars
Cinnabar Caterpillars | Source

Learn More about Moths and Butterflies

Pocket Guides: Butterflies and Moths
Pocket Guides: Butterflies and Moths

Get a field guide to butterflies and moths to learn about the flying flowers in your area.

 

Cinnabar Comments

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    • profile image

      boa11kfh 4 years ago

      what adaptations does the caterpillar have that allow it to be immune to the toxic ragwort plant?

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Beautiful pictures. About two weeks ago I found a small patch of weeds, we had mowed, in our field. It has three beautiful yellow to orange and black striped caterpillars. I started looking online and found they are the Cinnabar Moth larva. I have never seen them before. We live near Salem, Oregon. I have taken pictures of them and we are looking forward to watching them turn into moths

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      we had about 35 of these in our garden, i wont let my hubby mow the lawn til they're all gone :) we have 1 left xxxx

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      do they bite that would be some good information becuz ive got a loose cinibar caterpillar in my home. i can't find it and its an adult and soon moth. plz get back to me xx

    • FallenAngel 483 profile image

      FallenAngel 483 5 years ago

      I'm lucky enough to have had the moth in my garden a couple of years ago. In the UK Ragwort is classed as a weed and it is a legal requirement that it be destroyed when found. This is making life tough for this gorgeous moth and that is very sad. Thanks for a lovely lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I found one, and I named my caterpillar "spooky"! :D its black and orange=halloween=scary=spooky!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      i found one in Germany, and I was wondering if they are "bad" in any way. like do they eat clothes and things like that

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I had one in my garden today in Liverpool.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      The kids just caught one in a jar outside in Eugene, Or. They thought it was a butterfly, but because of its wing shape I knew it was a moth. Thank you for the info. here. We looked it up and named it Cinnabar :) Will let it go later today.What a beautiful specimen.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Saw about 40 caterpillars a few miles north of Newcastle Washington last year, but didn't know what they were. They are so bright yellow and dark black they're almost scary. Thanks for identifying them. I've been looking for a year now trying to identify them.

    • jadehorseshoe profile image

      jadehorseshoe 5 years ago

      A Darling Lens.

    • workinghome profile image

      workinghome 6 years ago

      Great pictures!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      My son caught one today. I have never seen one before and thought it was kind of a rare sight. But upon further investigation, apparently it is found more commonly in Washington. It sure is pretty and I will make sure that he lets it go.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @anonymous: I live on the wirral, my grandchildren have 2 of these catterpillars, my grandsons have about 30 in a container with grass. But just read they can turn on each other so I better let them know.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      i live in Rhyl, North Wales in The U.K. I saw one 2day. Wonderful colour. And hour later, saw it again!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thank you for helping me to identify this pretty little moth (that i mistook for a butterfly!) who has been in our garden every day for the past couple of weeks. Every time i hang my washing out it is there on the lawn & normally I am scared of bugs but this one doesn't bother me, nor do i bother it. It never flies away from me & seems quite friendly?!!

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 6 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      A very colorful moth. Blessed

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thanks for the great information, I took photos of one in my garden last week as I love taking photos of flowers, butterflies, bugs, bees etc. We live on a farm in Maihiihi, New Zealand and yes there is ragwort in the area so it is great to know that they eat the plant.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      My daughter gathered these caterpillars and fed them fresh ragwort weeds and then three of them made cocoons and she is waiting for them to emerge! It has been a fun project so far.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      @anonymous: We have several in Silverdale, WA. They are beautiful!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I have got 2 cinnabar moths in my garden but one has a broken wing so we have got it in our house and have started looking after it. These 2 moths have been coming to my garden every year for 3 years. We expect to see them every year and they never let us down and stay all summer.

      It is an honour to enjoy watching these and nowing they like it here. We live in a small town called skelmersdale, West lanashire and didn't expect such a beautiful sight as we rarely ever see a butterfly.

    • kohuether lm profile image

      kohuether lm 7 years ago

      very, very interesting.I never knew moths could be so pretty!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I saw my very first cinnabar moth today while watering my front garden, it must have been getting wet on the bushes and flew out. I was really impessed with it so I caught it gently in my hands to show my Husband who also has never seen one before.

      We live in Oxfordshire and upon looking up this moth on Google, it shouldn't really be in this area so we were honoured!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      found one today in federal way, wa

      thanks for the info! he's beautiful.

    • LarryCoffey LM profile image

      LarryCoffey LM 7 years ago

      Wow... Something so ugly blooms into something so beautiful.