Monday, 22 August 2011

Ragwort and the Cinnabar Moth

Hopefully you've all managed to keep on top of your ragwort this year.  It seems to have been a bad year (or good if you are a Cinnibar Moth, pictured) for this poisonous weed.  I think ragwort enjoyed the very dry start to the year and you only need to look around the verges and roundabouts to see that.
Ragwort as we all know (thanks to the kindly passer by who pointed this out to us!) is poisonous to horses and lots of other things, including us. Make sure you wear gloves when touching ragwort. We don't let kids handle it at all.  It can give you flu like symptoms and make you feel quite grotty.
Mostly, horses are quite sensible (in this department anyway) and won't eat ragwort whilst it is alive but when it dies back it is a risk or if it is cut and baled in hay.  If horses are hungry enough they will eat it dead or alive.  Also, once you've pulled it, be careful what you do with it.
When you are pulling ragwort you may well notice a little yellow and black caterpillar.  This is the larvae of the Cinnabar Moth.  It feeds on ragwort, making itself poisonous and therefore unattractive to predators.  Pretty clever hey?  Apparently, in some countries they have introduced the moth to help to control the ragwort.
So, as you rub your sore back and pull the final piece of ragwort from your paddock, spare a thought for this pretty little moth!


  1. Hey :) I just came across this blog on google as I was searching for information on the cinnabar moth. I found one in my garden today which was injured and have handled it quite a lot thinking it was harmless... Could I have any side effects having handled it?

  2. Hi Amy, I far as I know the moth itself is harmless (although I am no moth expert!). I hope it survived.