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Cinnabar Moth (Tyria jacobaeae)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Cinnabar Moth

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Image Credit: Barbara H. from South Surrey, BC
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This helpful moth species was brought to North America to help combat its invasive and poisonous host plant.

Updated: 01/03/2022; Authored By ; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The black and red Cinnabar Moth is a deliberate import from Europe. The caterpillar of this species feeds on Tansy Ragwort, a type of weed from Europe that is toxic to cattle, horses, and other animals that forage in open fields. Even honey made from the plant is bitter. Introduction of the Cinnabar Moth has helped curb the growth of the noxious weed.

Females lay eggs underneath the leaves of the plant. The caterpillars eat the leaves and then, fortunately, continue on to eat the flowers, reducing the plant's ability to reproduce. The young larva has a black head and is yellow, but as it matures, a bold black and yellow banding pattern form on the body. If either the caterpillar or adult is spotted, consider them both beneficial to have around.

Known Diet of the Cinnabar-Moth

Tansy Ragwort
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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Helpful insect icon
Patterned insect icon
Striped or banded insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Erebidae
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          Genus: Tyria
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            Species: jacobaeae

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Tyria jacobaeae
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 10mm to 40mm (0.39" to 1.57")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; red
Descriptors: red side lines; two dots at bottom of wing; dark; red hindwing; flying; beneficial; helpful; black body

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 10mm (0.4in) and 40mm (1.6in)
Lo: 10mm
Md: 25mm
Hi: 40mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Cinnabar Moth may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Cinnabar Moth. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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