The genetics of burnet moths, Zygaena fabricius, 1775, (Insecta: Lepidoptera, Zygaenidae, Zygaeninae)
Zygaena species are aposematic and have toxic properties in all stages of their life history. Their contrasting coloration that is primarily red and black or yellow and black is of great ecological significance because it is considered to be a means of defence against potential predators, such as birds, insectivorous mammals and reptiles. The adults form part of a Müllerian mimicry ring involving each other, red and black or yellow and black meloid beetles, bugs and other insects. One species, Z. ephialtes, has a special ephialtoid morph that mimics species of the genus Syntomis and its involvement with them is considered to form a special Müllerian mimicry ring that behaves in a Batesian manner. That is to say, the degree of distastefulness and the genetics of mimicry, colour and pattern polymorphism in Z. ephialtes indicate that it takes an intermediate place between classical Batesian and Müllerian mimicry. The larvae of one or of different species can exhibit aposematism and/or procrypsis, i.e. the early instars of the larva can be cryptic and only the last instar is aposematic, or in a given region the larvae of a species are aposematic in all their instars yet in another region they are cryptic. Moreover, from a distance the adults might be mistaken for leguminous seedpods and the flower heads of sedges when they are at rest on herbage and their aposematic coloration comes into play only when a potential predator approaches them closely. Under certain circumstances, larvae that are aposematic can also be cryptic because their disruptive coloration allows them to blend into the background of light and shade when they are at rest or feeding on their host-plants.