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Mullein Moth

Cucullia verbasci

Mullein Moth

A close up of a green leaf with a Cucullia verbasci caterpillar on
Shargacucullia.verbasci.caterpillar by Olei (CC BY 2.5)
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Although common, Mullein Moths often go unnoticed when adults. It's the caterpillars which gardeners see the most. Mullein Moth caterpillars are easy to spot on plants because of their vivid colours. The white caterpillars are covered in yellow and black markings. They chew the leaves and flowers, sometimes stripping plants when infestations are particularly bad. C. verbasci favours Mullein, but sometimes will be found eating Buddleia and Figworts. As adult moths, they're food for a variety of other wildlife, such as birds, mammals and predatory insects. Mullein Moths are frequent to gardens, meadows, grasslands, waste ground, and woodland, and most active between April and July.

Traits

The larvae can be a destructive pest when in abundance.
Provides a tasty snack for birds, bats and hedgehogs.

Appearance

Adults: Mature moths can be recognised by their large, broad wings, which are brown and cream. The bodies are chunky and broad, and also the same colour; patterned with streaks of cream, and sometimes white. The adults are seldom seen by gardeners but are readily attracted to light, so you may stumble upon one in the evening if the garden light is left on. Larvae: The caterpillar larvae (length: approx 5cm) are grey-white with yellow markings and black irregular dots. Eggs: Description unavailable. Eggs are laid on the listed host plants.

Symptoms

Light infestations can result in irregular shaped holes in leaves. Flower spikes can also be damaged. Heavy infestations can result in plants being completely stripped. When threatened, these insects may freeze and vomit!

Activity

Nocturnal

Personality

Order

Lepidoptera

Family

Noctuidae

Metamorphosis

Complete

Distribution

The UK and Europe

Biological treatment

Pick off caterpillars with your hands and dispose of them. Place on a bird table, or relocate elsewhere!

Chemical treatment

When infestations are too heavy and cannot be controlled mechanically, plants can be sprayed with organic pesticides containing pyrethrum. Organic products can still be toxic, so please take care to research products and read instructions carefully before using them. Flowers should not be sprayed.

Attracts

A yellow Verbascum plant flowering in a garden

Mullein

Verbascum spp.

A close up of some purple Buddleja flowers in a garden

Buddleia

Buddleja spp.

Scrophularia

Scrophularia spp.

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