The Matterhorn tiger moth lives at altitudes between 2,600 and 3,200 m. It prefers settling in landscape covered with slates in habitats of the Alps with sparse vegetation. The magnificent butterfly, however, is only rarely found today. Apart from the odd occurrence in the Western Alps, in Ötztal it is found on Hochjochferner glacier and Similaun mountain. During the ice age, the butterflies could survive only on individual, iceless peaks (= Nunataks). Its former, expansive dispersal area was thus broken up. Remaining are just a few, narrow areas where the species is still found today.
Matterhorn tiger moths found in Tirol are bigger than those in the Western Alps and have a different wing shape. That’s also why they are described as a distinct subspecies Holoarctia cervini teriolensis. The wingspan of the moths in Tirol ranges from about 32 – 38 mm. Their forewings are mostly coloured bright to orange-yellow, with black to dark grey spots. The male moths fly around in search of females during the day, who are primarily found sitting beneath big rocks. The female lays round, yellow eggs e.g. on the Alpine lady’s mantle or alpine plantain. The caterpillars have a lemon-yellow stripe on their black, hairy back.
As summer in the highlands is short, the development from egg to moth takes 2-3 years. The caterpillars must withstand great differences in temperature: On a sunny day, the area near the ground can heat up to more than 30°C, but frosty summer nights are also possible.
In Tirol, the Matterhorn tiger moth is regarded as threatened by extinction and protected. Current threats are mainly made up of climate change and people collecting the moths