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Calling Temeres
or anyone else on my flist who is better than me at identifying insects (that'll be all of you, then).

We encountered a number of these beasties in Hainault Forest Country park today. When in flight, they look like red and black butterflies or moths. Indeed, the close-up shows a moth or butterfly like head and there don't seem to beetle-like hard wing-cases.

mystery insect on thistle

mystery insect half profile

This was in one of the newly-created heathland areas in the park, and there were lots of Gatekeepers and Peacocks around as well.

ETA. sbisson tells me that they are a heathland moth called the Burnet Moth (I count six spots on each wing too, so I guess that confirms the Six-spot Burnet identification.) I am pleased because it seems that the attempts to re-create heathland within Hainault Forest is working. Am now off to look at the distribution, as this beastie is new to my Northern-bred eyes.

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They're fine examples of that staple of British heathland, the day-flying Burnet moth. Probably six-spot Burnets, to be precise.

See! I said that everyone on my flist was better at insects than I am!

Thanks, Simon!

Yep, Six-spot Burnet Zygaena filipendulae. The larval foodplant is Birdsfoot Trefoil, by no means confined to heathland. I saw some 6-spots a few weeks ago on the north Kent marshes. There are six species of Zygaena occurring in the UK, with zillions more on the continent.

On the other hand, the distribution map seemed to suggest that you didn't see them inland much in Northern England, and certainly not up in Sheffield and the Peak. Said distribution map does show them over the heathland and meadows (though not much around the marshes) in South Essex, though.

They stand to be anywhere the food plant is, though not everywhere the food plant is. Birdsfoot Trefoil is pretty catholic when it comes to soil preferences and is thus found all over the place. I notice there's some in the bottom left of the second picture.

I was told a few years ago by a botanist friend that they're Burnet Moths. We see a lot of them in the Burren, Co. Clare.

Were they part of your childhood? They are not part of mine or Ina's.

I grew up in the north west of England, and I certainly don't remember them that far back, but I have been seeing them in the Burren for the last 25 years.

Ah yes, the six-spot Burnet. I've never seen them up north either, but I remember seeing a lot of them down at the Rutherford Appleton Lab in Oxfordshire, when I was hanging around there waiting for neutrons in my research-student days.

Whew! Thanks for that confirmation.

inamac says, "But they'd be mutant moths, then?"

What a striking looking creature! I've certainly never seen one like it. Splendid pics :-)

This is what got me! I am not entirely unobservant where wildlife is concerned, but these were new to me. Of course, I didn't normally get out on Southern heathland around midday until I retired...

I remember them being fairly common in my childhood in Wakefield.

Which is interesting again, because Wakefield is a good deal lower than Sheffield and the Peak, though about as Inland North England as you can get!

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