This large, brightly coloured moth is on the wing towards the end of the summer, during July and August. It is a night-flying moth of scrub-covered sand dunes, woodland edge, wet meadows, parks and gardens. The striking caterpillars are large, black and covered in long, dense, black and ginger hairs: they are commonly called ‘Woolly Bears’. They feed on stinging nettles, dock leaves and many garden plants.
The Garden Tiger Moth has a chocolate-brown, furry body, brown- and white-patterned forewings, and bright red hindwings with four or five large black spots. They have a wingspan of up to 6.5cm. There are five similar tiger moths in Britain, all of which are smaller. The Wood Tiger and Cream-spot Tiger have yellowy-orange hindwings instead of red; the former has black and yellow forewings and the latter has black and white forewings. The Jersey Tiger has white stripes on the black forewings, while the Scarlet Tiger has white spots on the black forewings.
They are a priority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
The Garden Tiger Moth is well-protected against predators: the hairs on the caterpillar are irritating; the bright colours on the adult warn that it is unpalatable; and adults can rub their wings together to create a rasping noise.