08 January 2012 ~ 1 Comment

Great Mullein And The Mullein Moth

Great Mullein

Despite spending much of my free time out in the countryside observing nature for as long as I can remember I recently stumbled across a new find in the form of a plant I’d never seen before.

Whilst it isn’t rare it is most exotic-looking and my first thought when I saw it was that this plant had blown in as a seed from a nearby garden. After some research I managed to identify the plant as a mullein. Whilst there are a number of different mulleins in the UK it seems from my research that the plant I found was the largest (and seemingly commonest) of the group – known as Great Mullein.

Great or Common Mullein, latin name Verbascum thapsus, is an impressive plant that can reach over 6 feet in height with rosettes of large leaves each one cloaked in bristly white hairs giving it a Mediterranean look and the appearance of greyish foliage thanks to the combination of the white hairs on the green leaves.

Great Mullein plant

mullein

Just as interestingly while trying to get a number of photos of the plant to help me identify it I stumbled across a number of large, brightly-coloured caterpillars feeding on the plant.

The combination of a minty green background together with the yellow and black spots gives it a most attractive and indeed impressive appearance. It turns out that these are the caterpillars of the mullein moth though I was somewhat disappointed that the adult moth itself is far less impressive in appearance that the larvae.

If you’re out and about in the late spring and early summer keep an eye out for mullein which thanks to it’s size and shape is easy to identify – and watch for caterpillars feeding on it.

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Mullein moth caterpillar

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20 April 2010 ~ 0 Comments

Six Spot Burnet Moth (Zygaena filipendulae)

burnet moths
Creative Commons License photo credit: Woodlouse

The six spot burnet (Zygaena filipendulae) is one of the commonly-seen day-flying moths of British summer days. Often seen feeding on nectar-rich flowers like thistles, the moth is one of the easiest of all to identify.

Appearance

The six spot burnet looks almost like it could be a beetle due to it’s long antennae but the wings clearly mark it out as either a butterfly or moth. The burnet possesses 6 bright red/pink spots on an otherwise black background so is very easy to spot.

Habitat

The burnet can be seen during warmer months in gardens but is most often seen in rough pasture and meadow where it feeds on the nectar of flowers. A summer walk through your local common gives you a great chance of seeing this brightly coloured insect.

Food

The adult moths feed on nectar whilst the caterpillars feed on wild plants like birds foot trefoil.

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