Some native moths in the UK are entirely dependent on trees and woodlands.

Moths play an important role in the habitats that they live in. As a caterpillar and adult moth, they can be a protein-rich part of a bird's or bat's diet. When they aren't being preyed upon, they act as important pollinators of wildflowers and crops.

Moths live in a variety of habitats but some have very specific preferences. Explore five rare moths that depend on trees.

1. Dark bordered beauty

Epione vespertaria

Fact file

Wingspan: 25-30mm

Status: nationally scarce, due to a lack of regenerating aspen.

On the wing: July and August, in flight from dusk to dawn.


As you'd probably guess, this moth is so-called because of the thick dark border along the edge of its yellow-orange wings which have a lace-like patterning.

It is worth noting that the female is lighter in colouration and has a darker line separating the dark border from the rest of the wings.

Link to trees

The caterpillars of this species feed on willow, birch, hazel and the short suckers of regenerating aspen.

Where to see it

Populations of dark bordered moths are focused in a few locations in:

  • Scotland
  • Northern England

You are most likely, if you're very lucky, to see this species near aspen-dominated wet woodland, as well as heathland. 


2. Broad-bordered bee hawk-moth

Hemaris fuciformis

Fact file

Wingspan: 40-48mm

Status: nationally scarce, due to over-grazing and over-shading of foodplants.

On the wing: May and June, in flight in the late morning and early afternoon.


This moth is truly stunning. Look out for its red-brown banded abdomen, translucent wings and prominent clubbed antennae. 

One of its most noticeable characteristics is the way it feeds. Like a hummingbird, this sizeable moth manoeuvres swiftly around, probing tubular flowers for nectar as it feeds on the fly.

Link to trees

The caterpillars and adult moths mainly feed on wild honeysuckle. This species is also associated with snowberry, ragged robin, lousewort and bugleweed that are found in the understorey of light-dappled woodlands.

Where to see it

You may be lucky enough to see one if you are visiting woodlands in:

  • England: East Anglia, Lincolnshire, West Midlands, Yorkshire
  • Wales

Keep an eye out for other moths that mimic bees, like the hummingbird hawk-moth and the narrow-bordered bee hawk-moth.

3. Dark crimson underwing

Catocala sponsa

Fact file

Wingspan: 60-70mm

Status: vulnerable to habitat loss.

On the wing: August to September, in flight during the night.


This secretly stunning moth can hide in plain sight thanks to the detailed bark-like patterning on its forewings. If you do manage to get close, it will reveal its true beauty when it flashes its crimson underwings. 

Link to trees

This species has a strong relationship with mature oak trees, which the caterpillars feed on. 

Where to see it

You may be lucky enough to see this species f you are visiting:

  • The New Forest National Park in Hampshire

Look out for other moths that have similar underwings, like the clifden nonpareil.

4. Goat moth

Cossus cossus

Fact file

Wingspan: 64-95mm

Status: nationally scarce due to habitat loss and being the target of pesticide applications.

On the wing: June and July, in flight during the night.


This whopping great big species is by far the heaviest moth in the UK! Its velvety soft black and white markings are reminiscent of cracked wood.

Link to trees

Extraordinarily, goat moth caterpillars can be hidden away for up to four years, feeding in the heartwood of host broadleaved trees in wet woodlands, such as willow and poplar, alder and downy birch.

Where to see it

You'd be lucky to see a goat moth in low-lying grassland, water meadows, riverbanks, fens and marshes, woodland edges and hedgerows in:

  • Eastern and southern England
  • East Scotland
  • South Wales

5. Kentish glory

Endromis versicolora

Fact file

Wingspan: 54-78mm

Status: nationally scarce, due to climate change and loss of breeding sites.

On the wing: March-May, males are fly during the day and at dusk, while females are nocturnal.


If you are out for a day or dusk walk, you are more likely to come across a male, with its dark orange colouration and feathery antennae for detecting mates. The larger females tend to be brown and white and are mostly nocturnal.

Link with trees

Caterpillars feed on silver birch foliage, and may also peruse downy birch and alder. Their preferred habitat is open birch woodland and lightly wooded moorland and scrub.

Where to see it

Keep an eye out for the Kentish glory if you visit:

  • Central and eastern highlands of Scotland
  • Southern and southeast England
  • the border between England and Wales

6. Plumed prominent

Ptilophora plumigera

Fact file

Wingspan: 33-44mm

Status: nationally scarce with a limited local range, for reasons not understood.

On the wing: November and December. in flight during the night.


The plumed prominent has a russet-brown colouration and a 'collar' of fur. The male is more vibrant in colour than the female and has distinctively large feathery antennae. 

Link with trees

Caterpillars feed predominantly on field maple, with the adult moths being found in flight near these trees. Sycamore is also associated with this species.

Where to see it

Unlike other prominent species, this moth flies in mild and cloudy weather in the winter. Keep an eye out for this moth if you visit woodlands in:

  • Southern England

How we help moths

We protect, restore and manage trees and woodlands across the UK, so that they support woodland species like moths and their foodplants.

We understand the importance of managing woodlands so that have structural diversity and a variety of habitats. Some of the ways we do this are: 

  • Coppicing, pollarding, pruning and thinning trees to promote botanical diversity
  • Creating open glades and woodland rides
  • Connecting woodlands up with hedgerows that act as wildlife corridors
  • Restoring dark and dense conifer plantations back to light-dappled broadleaved woodlands that brim with life
  • Creating woodland made up of trees of various ages and sizes with a good shrub layer and rich ground flora. 
Speckled yellow moth resting on grass

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Together we can help protect woodlands for wildlife. There's no better way to support us than by becoming a member.

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Discover more about moths, what they eat and how to identify them