Tansy & Cinnabar Moths----a Lifecycle

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Stephen McDonald
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Tansy & Cinnabar Moths----a Lifecycle
5 months ago

Tansy ragwort is an invasive weed that is deadly to horses and cattle, if eaten. Lots of eradication work has been done, but the best part was to import tansy's main predator, the Cinnabar Moth, from Europe.

I found many tansy plants today, that had cinnabar caterpillars gnawing away on them. Before they're finished, they may have eaten all the flowers and prevented seeding. And another cycle was beginning, as adult female moths were fluttering around and depositing eggs on the flower heads. The moths are beautiful in shape and color and have a glowing deep blue on their backs. Maybe some viewers from Europe will recognize them.

There were other insects interested in the flowers. Just after I took her picture, this moth was attacked by a medium-sized wasp and they fell to the ground together. She had her ovipositor stuck into a flower and I hope she was able to complete the job, before her misfortune.

The plants contain a chemical that is a precursor to a complex alkaloid, that destroys the livers of horses and cattle. It is an enzyme in their digestive systems, that causes this deadly reaction. Sheep and goats don't seem to be affected. The liver tries to break down the alkaloid, but is unable. It keeps trying until its cells become inflamed and scar-tissue forms, disabling it permanently.

Sony HX400V-----Best to view at original size.

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