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The first Butterbur moth in Fife has been recorded in a conservation area on the Kilconquhar Estate

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Butterbur Moth

The Butterbur moth (Hydraecia petasitis) occurs throughout England, Wales and southern Scotland – but this is the first time that it has been recorded in Fife.

The larvae of the Butterbur moth feed from April to early July on the Butterbur (Petasites hybridus), a plant that is commonly found in marshy places and alongside burns and rivers.  The adults emerge in August and early September and develop a wingspan of 44-50mm – but they can be difficult to spot because of their secretive habits.

More easily identified is its food source.  The Butterbur has dense and globular, yellowish-lilac flowers that appear early in the year when only the reddish leaf scales have developed. The honey-scented flowers are popular with early queen bees. After flowering, huge, heart-shaped leaves develop which were once used for wrapping butter - hence its name. These leaves are the largest of any native British plant, and can measure almost a metre across. They therefore also make very serviceable umbrellas or even sunhats - the botanical name derives from the Greek for 'hat'! The whole plant is covered with cobweb-like hairs.

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