Magpie moth

Magpie Moth

©Les Binns

Magpie moth

Scientific name: Abraxas grossulariata
The magpie is a distinctive moth with striking black and yellow spots on white wings. It is a frequent garden visitor, but also likes woodland, scrub and heathland.

Species information


Wingspan: 3.6-5.0cm

Conservation status


When to see



The magpie is a medium-sized moth which is quite butterfly-like in appearance. It is on the wing during summer when it can be frequently found in gardens, as well as woodland, scrub and heather moorland. The caterpillars feed on a variety of shrubs, including hazel, hawthorn, privet and currants. The magpie overwinters as a caterpillar and pupates in late spring.

How to identify

The magpie is mainly white, with black and yellow spots on the wings, and a yellow-and-black body. The similar. The small magpie lacks the yellow spots on the wings and is, as its name suggests, smaller.


Widespread in England, Wales and the lowlands of Scotland.

Did you know?

The bold colours of the magpie warn predators that it is distasteful. Although birds are wary of this species, spiders will try to eat any caught in their web. After trying it, however, they'll quickly discard it.

How people can help

To attract butterflies and moths into your garden, plant nectar-rich borders for them to feed along and climbing ivy and shrubs for overwintering insects. To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started.