Scarlet Tiger Moth Facts: All You Need To Know

Scarlet tiger moths are one of the most beautiful insects in the world. Their bright, red underwings and black upper wings belie the fact that they are moths, not butterflies. Learn more about these bugs in the article below.

Moths are usually pastel-colored and rather dull looking. While most of the species are like that, there are some that are almost as attractive as brightly colored butterflies. 

The scarlet tiger moth is one of them. Many consider them to be the most beautiful moths in the world. 

Let us learn more about these attractive insects and a few fascinating facts about them in this article. 

Scarlet Tiger Moth Facts

Scientific Classification Table 

FamilyErebidaeTigers, Ermines, Footmen and allies (Arctiids)
IdentificationBlack forewings with yellow spots and bright orange hindwings with black spots that look like eyespots.Sometimes the hindwings are yellow. 
SizeLarge sized
Wingspan Size1.88 – 2.2 inches
RangeUK and Wales
LifespanFew weeks
Life CycleEggs, larvae, pupae, adults
DietAdults: nectar from flowers like hibiscus and petuniaCaterpillars: Herbaceous plants like common nettle
Conservation StatusUK BAP: Not listed
Other Common NamesCallimorpha Dominula

What Does A Scarlet Tiger Moth Look Like? 

Scarlet tiger moths belong to the Arctiidae family in the Lepidoptera order. They are a type of tiger moth, as the name suggests.

A scarlet tiger moth can be identified by the bright colors on its body. 

The forewings are black with yellow spots. But the real attraction is the hindwings; these are bright orange in color with black eyespots that look very much like bug eyes.

Little do observers know that these eyespots have a specific purpose – they are a tool to signal the predators that they are not appealing prey.

Moreover, these spots make them appear bigger. 

Scarlet Tiger Moth Facts

The colors of the wings also have the same function – while it may look beautiful to us, these bright colors mean something entirely different to predators in the wild.

They signify danger or a hard to eat prey. This is an excellent example of aposematic coloration.

On rare occasions, you might spot a scarlet tiger moth with yellow hindwings as well.

Scarlet Tiger Moth Size – How Big Does Scarlet Tiger Moth Get? 

Scarlet Tigers fall in the category of large moths. 

They can have a wingspan of 1.88 – 2.2 inches. The moth caterpillars are black to grayish in color with white and yellow dots on the body. 

An average healthy caterpillar can grow up to 1.6 inches long

You must note that the growth significantly depends on the quantity of food that they consume during the larval stage. 

Scarlet Tiger Moth Lifespan – How Long Do Scarlet Tiger Moths Live? 

Adult moths don’t live for long. A healthy scarlet tiger moth can survive for a few weeks and spend most of their lives caterpillars. 

Another interesting thing to note here is that these insects can spend around four months inside their cocoon before emerging as adults. 

Scarlet Tiger Moth Facts

The time can vary according to the size of the moth. 

In the wild, there is always a danger of them being hunted down by potential tiger moth predators like bats, small mammals, reptiles and birds. 

Scarlet Tiger Moth Life Cycle

Mating

Scarlet tiger moths adults emerge in the months of June and July. Soon after emerging, these adults mate. 

During mating, the eggs get fertilized inside the female body. 

Later the females carry these eggs to good food plants like common nettle, comfrey, and green alkanet and lay them there. 

Egg Hatching

Within seven days, the eggs hatch.

As soon as the caterpillar comes out, they directly start eating the shells of the eggs from which it hatched. 

These eggshells are a rich source of protein and vitamins. 

Once that is done, they start feeding on the host plant (we mention which ones in a little while). 

From time to time, they keep shifting from one host plant to the other to get sufficient food out of them. 

These larvae can easily eat plant matter weighing 2,700 times their own body weight. It is crucial for them to eat properly to be able to grow into healthy tiger moths. 

Scarlet Tiger Moth Facts

Once they have eaten enough, they leave the host tree and start searching for secure spots to start pupating. 

It might take a while to find the right spot as they are extremely careful about avoiding predators at this stage.  

Pupation & Becoming Adults

The moth remains in the cocoon for around four months. The time can be longer depending on the size and strength of the adult that emerges from the pupa. 

As adults, they feed on nectar and are often seen around gardens with plenty of flowers. 

Where Is Scarlet Tiger Moth Found & Their Range?

Scarlet tiger moths prefer to be in coastal habitats like fens, floodplains, wetlands, riverine habitats, and beaches. 

You will also find them in open woodlands, gardens, and ditches. 

They are found in different parts of the UK and Wales. A big population of these tiger moths is found in West and South England. There are some isolated populations in Kent. 

While most of these beautiful moths live in the UK, there are a few populations in the rest of Europe as well, spreading upto Turkey.

In the US, they have been spotted in Jersey during the last 20 years. 

You can find them roaming around during the daytime, basking in the sunlight, or resting on leaves. They are active during the night.  

What Do Scarlet Tiger Moths Eat? 

Scarlet tiger moth adults live longer than the other tiger moth species. 

Unlike their relatives, they actively drink nectar from hibiscus, petunias, goldenrod flowers, and verbenas. 

The scarlet tiger moth caterpillars eat a wide variety of herbaceous plants like common nettle, honeysuckle, rose, sallows, and common comfrey. 

The caterpillar often shifts from one host plant to another to get strong enough to transition into the pupation process and later emerge as an active adult.

Scarlet Tiger Moth Facts

Are Scarlet Tiger Moths Poisonous?

Scarlet tigers are not poisonous, but it is not safe to touch these insects directly. 

When the adult tiger moth feels threatened, they release a foul-smelling liquid that makes the predators sick and makes them look unappealing as prey. 

This smelly fluid can trigger allergic reactions in the human body. 

You must also note that various colors of tiger moths are a sign to the predators that hunting and eating will not be a wise choice. 

Touching the caterpillars is also not advisable as the bristle-like hair in the body might pierce through the skin and cause rashes and irritation. 

Do Scarlet Tiger Moths Bite? 

Scarlet tiger moths do not bite or sting. These insects are not aggressive and quite delicate. But don’t be complacent around them. 

As mentioned in the previous section, they emit a fluid that can cause allergic reactions in the human body. If you want to touch them, it is wise to wear safety gloves. 

How To Attract Scarlet Tiger Moth? 

Scarlet tiger moths are a treat to watch. The orange hindwings with black spots are rare to find in other moths. 

If you reside in Europe and want to attract these moths to your garden, here are a few tips to take note of:

Have a bright flowering garden

Adult moths are fond of flowers and rely on nectar to fulfill their herbivorous diet. Add a variety of flowers like hibiscus, petunias, goldenrod flowers, and verbenas to lure them in.

Scarlet Tiger Moth Facts

To attract female tiger moths, you can add some of the following plants: 

  • Common Nettle 
  • Honeysuckle
  • Rose
  • Sallows
  • Common comfrey
  • Willow 
  • Black walnut
  • Paper birch
  • Smooth sumac
  • Persimmon
  • American chestnut and
  • White oak

These trees/plants are excellent host plants for the caterpillars to grow. The females will prefer to lay eggs in spots filled with good feeding options for the larvae. 

Use lights

Unlike other tiger moths, scarlet tiger moths are day-flying species. You can find them flying around the garden in the daytime, but they are also active at night. 

Moreover, these insects are attracted to light sources in the dark. Keep the porch lights on to lure these insects to your yards or gardens. 

You can also put a portable light in the middle of your garden to get better results. 

Keep predators away

It is obvious that scarlet tiger moths won’t be around areas filled with potential predators; therefore, you must keep birds, lizards and small rodents away from the garden. 

The females will only lay eggs in your garden if is free from all predatorial dangers. 

Scarlet Tiger Moth Facts

Scarlet Tiger Moth Meaning?

Tiger moths are associated with different kinds of symbolism across many cultures. For example, white-colored tiger moths are considered to be a sign of kindness and peace. 

Also, spotting tiger moths is often taken as a sign to be kind to people around you. This is because of the gentle and innocent nature of these insects. 

People also believe that Isabella tiger moth caterpillars can predict the weather. 

The concept might be wrong, but it is always fascinating to know how various people see meaning in these insects.  

One of the most common symbolism related to tiger moths comes from the practice of flying toward light sources. 

Yes, the flying of tiger moths near lights is taken as a signal that the individual requires to embrace the inner light in their soul. It is always wise to move from the dark to the light.

Scarlet Tiger Moth Facts

Some people also take this sight as a sign that being too close to the fire will burn you up. 

Here the fire/light is considered a seductive source, and the moth flying toward it is a warning not to get lured by such things. It gives a lesson that everyone must think before rushing into any decision.

Scarlet Tiger Moth Facts?

Given below are a few more fascinating facts about these brightly colored tiger moths: 

  • The black forewings of a scarlet tiger moth can sometimes emit a metallic green sheen. However, this can only be observed if you look at them from different angles and lights. 
  • The garden tiger moths also have bright orange hindwings but they have navy blue spots on them. The scarlet tiger moth has black spots on top of its orange hindwings.
  • Other than the body color, the scarlet tiger does have any physical resemblance with any other moth in the UK. This makes it easy to recognize them in the region. 
  • Apart from coastal areas, you can also find these insects in damp spots like rocky cliffs. 
  • Being a frequent feeder of nectar, these insects are considered important pollinators. They can be counted in the beneficial insects list. 

Scarlet Tiger Moth Facts

How To Get Rid Of Scarlet Tiger Moth? 

These brightly colored moths are great to look at, but that doesn’t mean they are equally good to touch or play with. 

Children can especially get hurt by the foul-smelling liquid that they emit.

Keeping these moths away from your home is a wise choice to stay safe. Here are a few hacks to drive these insects away from your garden and home:

Use pheromone traps

A Pheromone trap attracts these insects to fall on a sticky surface where they get stuck. You can buy these traps from the nearest pet store. 

Install them in areas where you notice frequent moth activity. Once they land on a sticky surface, you can throw the moth out and put it back in the same place.

Invite predators like birds

Birds love to eat caterpillars and scarlet tiger moths. Having them around your garden will not only remove the existing moths but also prevent them from coming back. 

Sprinkle some bird feed in your garden regularly, and in no time, they will hunt down all the caterpillars and the moths.

Scarlet Tiger Moth Facts

Use natural remedies

Vinegar is an excellent natural repellent for woolly bears. Tiger moth caterpillars do not like the smell of vinegar as it is an excellent repellent. 

Spray some drops of vinegar on plants where the caterpillars gather, and you won’t see them there after a few days. 

A garlic, pepper, and water mixture are highly effective for killing tiger moth caterpillars. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Are scarlet tiger moths poisonous?

Scarlet tiger moths are not poisonous. However, it is not safe to touch these insects with bare hands. 
They release a foul-smelling liquid when they feel threatened by predators and humans. 
This fluid makes them look unappealing as prey. It can also trigger allergic reactions in the human body.

Is a scarlet tiger moth rare?

The scarlet tiger moth can be easily spotted in different regions of Wales, West, and South England. 
Since they are active during the daytime, you can spot them in gardens feeding on nectar. 
They prefer to be around coastal habitats like fens, floodplains, wetlands, and other riverine habitats.

Are tiger moths poisonous to touch?

Not all species of tiger moths are poisonous to touch. But there are a few that are dangerous. 
The Australian tiger moths are poisonous and touching them without any safety equipment can cause problems like dermatitis. 
Always remember to wear safety gloves while touching these insects.

Can I touch luna moth?

Luna moths are quite rare to spot in their adult stage. 
If you see one, try not to touch these insects as they are extremely fragile and the slightest pressure can break their wings and kill them. 
Touching or grabbing them will hurt or even kill these beautiful moths.

Wrap Up 

Scarlet moths are one of the most beautiful species of tiger moths on earth. If you live in the UK or in nearby areas of Europe, you can watch them in gardens and yards all through the summer.

Unlike others in their family, they are visible during the day and live much longer as adults.

We hope the article gave you all the information you needed to know about these bugs. 

Thank you for taking the time to read it!

Reader Emails

Over the years, a few of our readers have shared with us photographs of these beautiful moths, asking us to identify them. 

Please find below a selection of some of these pictures, and the queries posted by the takers.

Letter 1 – Possibly Tiger Moth from South Africa: Specious Tiger

 

South Africa
about 5 cm long, found on the bark of a big tree, Northeast of Limpopo Province (near Kruger Park). I thank you for your help,
Regards
Ingrid
South Africa



Hi Ingrid,
We believe this is a Tiger Moth in the family Arctiidae, but we do not know the species. It sure is a beautiful moth.


Update: (02/06/2007) South Africa
Hi there,
I found from on the website of the South African Museum in Cape Town the answer: it is ASOTA SPECIOSA (specious Tiger) (Drury 1773) “Latex sabotage: Caterpillars of Asota Speciosa feed on fig trees which have a sticky milky latex that poses both physical (gumming up the caterpillar’s mouth parts) and chemical hindrances for herbivores. The caterpillars sabotage the latex flow by chewing into the leaf veins on the underside of the leaf (where these veins are more prominent than on the upper surface) This action interrupts the flow of latex. The caterpillar then feeds on the parts of the leaf that would have been provided with latex via the sabotaged veins.”
Ingrid
South Africa

Letter 2 – Wasp Mimic Tiger Moth from Costa Rica

 

upload size/offer of pictures Location: Costa Rica, Alajuela, Atena, barrio Güísaro; hillside, semi-rural, 860m alt. October 28, 2011 2:09 pm Hi, quick question. I tried & failed repeatedly to upload 3 pics of about 2.8 – 3 MB each. What’s your size limit for uploads? Thanks, Claudia Leon Apparently one can’t just ask a tech question. Ok. I’ll attach one picture and see what happens. Here’s my text from my earlier failed attempts: Dear Bugman, unless I’m horribly mistaken (wouldn’t be the first time) these pictures show a specimen of the wasp-mimicking tiger moth, Isanthrene crabroniformis, Arciidae. If you think they could be useful as reference material, I’d like to donate them to your database. If not, just delete. It was resting on my patio table, before flying off to parts unknown. We live just outside the town of Atenas in the Central Valley. Best, Signature: Photolera Claudinha
Wasp Mimic Tiger Moth
Dear Photolera Claudinha, We apologize for both the technical problems you had and the delay.  We have been busy lately and we are behind in answering our mail, as usual.  We were going back through unanswered letters to locate a different email and we noticed the swarm of emails from you that were unopened, and we are pleased to post a few of your images of Isanthrene crabroniformis which is represented in our archive in a previous posting.  These moths are very effective wasp mimics.
Wasp Mimic Tiger Moth
Correction courtesy of Karl Hi Daniel and Photolera Claudinha: You are very close but I don’t think Isanthrene crabroniformis is quite correct. There are a few closely related and very similar looking species, and I believe this one may be Isanthrene cazador. Here is another site you can check out. Regards. Karl Thanks for the correction Karl. Hi Daniel & Karl, Thanks, this is most interesting. Which characteristics point toward I. cazador, rather than I. crabroniformis? I’m afraid, I don’t have the necessary tools & reference material to detect details. I appreciate your instructions! P. Claudinha We will let Karl provide input on your newest question.  We detect a difference in the stripes on the body that supports Karl’s identification.  

Letter 3 – Tiger Moth from Indonesia: Facebook Hoax, Object Merger or The Real Thing???

 

Subject: x bug Location: Indonesia February 17, 2017 3:59 am hi, just recent weeks ago i found this strange bug. it’s very uncommon to have that kind of bug (which i don’t know what kind it is) in here. i hope you can give me more information about this bug, because it scares people away. thank you Signature: x bug
Tiger Moth from Facebook
The moth in this image is a Tiger Moth, and the named file indicates it was lifted from Facebook.  Tiger Moths are harmless.  We have no idea what the X thing is, but it is not part of the moth, so this is either an internet hoax (the term we have long used for “fake news” on the internet) or an object merger similar to a photo showing a tree growing out of someone’s head. We stand corrected. Thanks to everyone who sent us corrections and links through our comments section.  We are going to contact Arctiid expert Julian Donahue to have him provide an explanation. Arctiid Expert Julian Donahue provide some input. Hi Daniel, Not a humbug, but apparently the widespread Asian Creatonotos transiens displaying his coremata (androconia are specialized scent scales usually confined to the wings). You can see images here:  https://hiveminer.com/Tags/creatonotostransiens/Recent and also if you Google the congeneric Creatonotos gangis you will see images of similar coremata. The Mt. Washington weather station is still down (apparently since about January 3), so I can’t track how much rain you’re getting–except on the news. Hope the hill doesn’t wash away. Your storm is just now beginning to hit Tucson, but we’re only expecting 0.5 to 1 inch of rain. Stay dry, Julian

Letter 4 – Unidentified Tiger Moth from Australia

 

Subject: Tiger Moth?? Location: Perth, WA March 25, 2017 6:52 pm Hello, I found this fluffy guy on my front porch in the Perth metropolitan area, Western Australia. It was found in April 2016. This was the only photo I managed before it flew away! I’ve been trying to find what kind of moth or family it belongs to since. The closest resemblance I can find is a Tiger Moth, what do you think? I would love to finally find out! Signature: Lisa
Unknown Tiger Moth
Dear Lisa, We agree with you that this is a Tiger Moth, but we have not had any luck identifying the species.  None of the species pictured on Butterfly House resemble your moth, nor did we find it on the Brisbane Insect site.  We will contact Tiger Moth expert Julian Donahue to see if he can provide an identification. Hi Daniel, Thank you! I have been searching for so long trying to find one similar, but haven’t had any luck. Your expertise is much appreciated! Kind regards, Julian Donahue provides some information and resources. Hi Daniel, Cool moth, and indeed a gravid female tiger moth. Not illustrated in Australian Moths Online http://www1.ala.org.au/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=9847 Another CSIRO site that you may find useful for all other groups of Australian insects: http://anic.ento.csiro.au/insectfamilies/ I suspect that it’s a melanic specimen, related to Creatonotos or “Diacrisia,” and may not be from Australia (or an accidental import). For a modern, updated list of Arctiidae of the Oriental Region, Australia, and Oceania, with current names, check out: http://szmn.eco.nsc.ru/Arctiidae/ArctiinaeOriental.htm The author, Vladimir V. Dubatolov, may be your best bet for identifying this animal. For New World tiger moths, I’d suggest Dr. Chris Schmidt, an active worker in the field (Canadian National Collection, Ottawa) Good luck, Julian

Letter 5 – Scarlet Tiger Moth from England

 

Subject: Moth Location: Eastbourne, East Sussex July 21, 2017 10:37 am This moth was seen in Eastbourne, East Sussex, England on 8 June at around 4pm. I think it is some kind of tiger moth. Signature: JJJ
Scarlet Tiger Moth
Dear JJJ, You are correct that this is a Tiger Moth.  We identified it as a Scarlet Tiger Moth, Callimorpha dominula, thanks to the image posted on the Animal Photos site where it states:  “Scarlet Tigers, like many other Tiger Moths, are active by day and by night, liking damp areas. They are among the few moths to eat nectar. Poisonous chemicals absorbed from host plants by their caterpillars give them red warning colours and make them unattractive to daytime predators. ”  According to UK Moths:  “The rather variable adults of this species usually have a metallic green sheen on the blackish areas of the forewing. It is one of the few tiger moths with developed mouthparts, allowing it to feed on nectar.  A day-flying species, it is locally common in southern and south-west England, south Wales and some areas in North-west England.”

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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13 thoughts on “Scarlet Tiger Moth Facts: All You Need To Know”

  1. i believe i can report an Isanthrene crabroniformis in Colima, Mexico, December 2011. i have a digital photo i would be able to send if your website had a facility to do that. if you would like a photo, please send an email address so that i can send a photo and you can verify my sighting, regards, beverly

    Reply
  2. No its not a hoax ! The X thing is an organ of the moth used either to scare away predators or for copulating purposes. I’ve seen it before personally !

    Reply
  3. I am at his moment watching a female “gravid female tiger moth” laying eggs on a leaf on my fig tree in my garden at Como, suburb of Perth, Western Australia.
    Do i break of the leaf an capture it as if it doesn’t belong here then I don’t want it.
    If you want it captured now is the time to let me know.

    Reply
  4. I am at his moment watching a female “gravid female tiger moth” laying eggs on a leaf on my fig tree in my garden at Como, suburb of Perth, Western Australia.
    Do i break of the leaf an capture it as if it doesn’t belong here then I don’t want it.
    If you want it captured now is the time to let me know.

    Reply

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