Found over much of Europe to west central Asia. Introduced to New Zealand, United States and Canada, they are of the common occasional day flying moths. The Cinnabar is a most distinctive species, usually nocturnal but often seen when disturbed from long grass and other herbage. In flight adults appear as a bright red "flash", never flying very far before settling when you will see that the red rear wings are bordered with black. The dark grey forewings have a red streak towards the front margin and two red spots on the outer edges, the head, thorax and abdomen are black. Wingspan 30 - 45mm (1.2 - 1.8in), seen May to July. Gregarious caterpillars in groups of about 30 have a narrow orange and black transverse alternate striped body (about 2.5cm - 1in long) which is covered with short black hairs. They have a small black shiny head and will be seen feeding on Common Ragwort - Senecio jacobaea their main food plant and other related plant species.
Larvae absorb alkaloids from the food plant becoming unpalatable to most vertebrates, however they readily consumed by many predatory insects. The banded colouration is seen in their later instar stages when they are much larger, early instars are almost all yellow. When fully grown, caterpillars leave the foodplant and pupate some distance away in a crevice or sheltered spot. A deliberately introduced species into Australia and New Zealand several times in the 19th century to control Ragwort.