Westbury Wildlife

News and information about wildlife in and around the parish.

Westbury half a dozen Tigers of the Week 12th August

The striking colours of these Tigers is a sign that they are unpalatable to birds and so most of them can fly during the afternoon as well as at night.


Cream-spot Tiger:   This moth is usually found in coastal habitats of the South West – Cornwall, Devon and Somerset and along the coasts of Dorset, Hampshire, Kent and Essex.  It has appeared in Westbury for each of the last two years and occurs in a variety of inland places in the same counties.  Its flight season is from late May to early July.  The caterpillars feed on a range of herbaceous weedy species like white dead nettle, hawkweeds and ragworts. There is one generation per year and it is nocturnal and comes to light.  It has been getting scarcer since 1990.

Photo     Trevor Beebee



Wood Tiger:   This is a moorland and heathland moth which occurs on Westbury Beacon and at Stoke Camp.  This moth, along with most of these tigers, is active in daylight as well as at night.  There is one generation and it flies from late May to July overwintering as a half-grown caterpillar.  This feeds on a variety of herbaceous plants like ribwort plantain, salad burnet, and groundsel.  It is widely distributed but local across the western and northern parts of the UK.  It is declining in abundance in some places.

Photo   John Ball




Inflating its wings

Scarlet Tiger:    This striking moth is mainly found in south western Britain and is spreading northwards and eastwards and is becoming more abundant.  It is active in the afternoon as well as at night when the males can be seen patrolling for females.



The caterpillar food plants are particularly comfrey and hemp agrimony.  As the caterpillars get larger they feed openly by day especially in sunshine, and they disperse onto a range of other plants like bramble and nettle.




There is one generation flying in ‘June and July’.  In Westbury this year the first was seen on 17th May and the last on 28th June so it has been an early season for them as well as for a whole lot of other butterflies and moths.

Photos Tina Westcott     Robert Maxwell Wood   Ollie Halls






Jersey Tiger:    This, like the Scarlet Tiger, is a striking moth but has a forewing with stripes rather than spots. The underwings are orange or, less commonly, yellow.  This moth is common on the Devon and Dorset coast but is now spreading northwards rapidly. It started being seen regularly in Westbury 5 or 6 years ago.   It is likely that there is, each year, an influx of moths from the continent.  Some have established on the coastal parts of Sussex and Kent. They have now arrived in London and are spreading northwards.



There is one generation per year with the adults flying from mid-July to early September.  The caterpillar is found in rough and disturbed ground where its food is a variety of herbaceous plants like nettle, plantains and ground ivy.  When it is a small caterpillar it over winters at the base of its food plants continuing to feed in the following spring and summer.

Photos     Oliver Halls   Robert Maxwell Wood  Peter Bright






Ruby tiger:  This is the smallest of this sextet of moths and is a dusky deep pink colour.  There are two generations a year with adults flying mid-April and May and the second generation from July to the beginning of September.  It overwinters as a fully grown caterpillar.  It is a moth of open habitats like woodland clearings, downland, set aside farmland and gardens.  There are a variety of herbaceous food plants including plantains and ragworts as well as spindle and broom.  Like the other tigers the adults can be active by day as well as at night.  Since 1970 it has shown large increases in distribution and abundance and is found across the whole of the UK.

Photos  Peter Bright


Garden Tiger:  This moth used to be common and widespread and was well known for its caterpillars – woolly bears with the irritating hairs.  It is still widespread, but it has declined greatly in numbers and to a lesser extent in distribution.  The cause of these declines is suggested to be increasingly warm and wet winters related to climate change.  However, it is still found across the whole of the UK.  There is one generation that flies in July and August.  There are a wide variety of food plants including nettles and docks as well as various garden plants.  The caterpillar overwinters as a small larva. It has been seen in Westbury once in the last 5 or 6 years that I know of.  The photo was taken this year at Westhay.

Photo    Jan Ward

Westbury Moth, rather than Butterfly, of the week 5th August

   Hummingbird Hawkmoth:  This day flying moth is quite unmistakeable. It has a smart grey brown body with white markings along the sides and orange hind wings. With a 5cm wingspan and its continually whirring wings it makes a characteristic ‘hum’.  Part of its scientific name is Macroglossum which recognises that it has a very long tongue which enables it to collect nectar, while hovering, from long tubular flowers like honeysuckle and red valerian.






It is a regular immigrant but is now managing to overwinter, especially in the south west of England.  It is a resident moth of Southern Europe and North Africa and is found across Asia as far as China and Japan.  In southern Europe it has two or three generations each year and over-winters as an adult hidden in a crevice.  It is a strong flier and variable numbers come into the UK from France and Spain every summer maybe as early as April but particularly in July and August and lay eggs particularly on lady’s and hedge bedstraws.

Lady’s Bedstraw

The caterpillar is a characteristic green with the hawkmoth spike at the tail end.  These home-produced moths are seen in September and October and an increasing number seem to be over-wintering successfully.  This is another animal we are seeing more of because of global warming.  There is a row for recording this moth on the Westbury Garden butterflies recording sheet.


Photos Robert Maxwell Wood   John Ball   Peter Bright

Butterfly of the Week 29th July 2020

Small Copper:  This handsome, brightly copper-coloured, small butterfly lives up to its name.  It is about the same size as a common blue.  It is widely distributed and found in a great variety of habitats across the wider countryside, where its chief food plant – common sorrel grows.  Woodland rides, hedgerows, arable set aside, parks, gardens, and churchyards where it is relatively dry and open, and which contain suitable nectar sources.


They are, usually, only a few adults on the wing at the same time in their favoured sites.  They over-winter as caterpillars which go into hibernation by the middle of October.  In the following March, these caterpillars complete their development and pupate in April, after which the first generation emerges in the latter part of May or early June.  The males are territorial chasing away other males and checking out any passing females.  Eggs laid by this first generation, go through to pupate in late June and July such that the second generation emerges at the end of July and into August. These are the butterflies on the wing now.



A third generation is then produced which emerges in the latter half of September.  It is this third generation, which can appear in large numbers in favourable years, as in Westbury in 2018 after the long hot summer.


Photos  Mick Fletcher      John Ball        Peter Bright