Moths in the Zygaenidae (Burnet moths), and Yponomeutidae families

On this page

Latin name Common name Family
Zygaena filipendulae Six-spot Burnet Zygaenidae
Argyresthia brockeellia   Yponomeutidae

Zygaenidae family, Burnet and Forester moths

Moths in the Zygaenidae family are commonly known as the Burnet moths and Forester moths. The adults are day fliers, and although their antennae are clubbed they are still considered moths, not butterflies. The adults and larvae are warningly coloured to avoid predation. They sequester poisons such as cyanide.

There are around 800 species in the family worldwide, and 10 in the U. K. They often live in colonies isolated from others of the same species, consequently there are many races or sub-species.

Zygaena filipendulae, the Six-spot Burnet

6-spot burnet moth, adult

Zygaena filipendulae, the Six-spot Burnet (above) is widespread and fairly common, in fact it is probably the most common Burnet in the U. K. It is also common in Europe. There is one generation a year in the U. K. It is found in flowery grassland, roadside verges, pasture and coastal grassland.

Eggs are laid on birdsfoot trefoil in July or August.

Caterpillar length is up to 22 mm long. The body shape is short, fat and tapering at both ends (a bit like me!). The foodplant is birdsfoot trefoil. On hatching the caterpillars feed, then hibernate through the winter. They emerge in the spring and feed again.

Pupation takes place attached to grass stems.

six-spot burnet moth, Zygaena filipendulae

Adults emerge in June or July, and fly on sunny days in open grassy sites with plenty of flowers until August. They have protective red and black colouring warning predators that they are not good to eat. In fact they can exude a fluid containing cyanide if attacked. The front wing length is 15 - 19 mm. During the flight season males patrol looking for unmated females. The sorry-looking adult above was found on a day after heavy rain showers.


The Yponomeutidae are found world wide, and there are around 600 species that have been described so far and 54 British species. The caterpillars of many species live communally in webs on trees and shrubs.

Argyresthia brockeella

Yponomeutidae, Argresthia brockeelia

Argyresthia brockeella is a beautiful little moth has a wingspan of just 4.0 - 5.5 mm. It is found in a wide variety of habitats. The adults fly from June - July.

The caterpillars feed on birch and alder shoots and catkins.