20 December 2015

No Filter Caterpillar

This week's post is going to be a simple, straight-down-the-barrel, amateur naturalist one. There will be no underlying themes, or thoughtful conclusions. Just a quick glance at a bit of seasonal nature, then that's 2015's blog done and dusted, and we can relax back to watching Christmas TV and eating mince pies.

This is a caterpillar. A very luminous caterpillar. No filters were applied.

I uncovered him while wrestling Garden65 into some order. A robin chirruped in a nearby tree. I took a quick snap of our caterpillar and tucked him under some vegetation but I do I fear for his safety.

After I'd peeled off the wellies I plonked down in front of the PC and had a bash at ID-ing our little glowing friend. This was not an easy task ...


Which one do you think?

I've settled for the answer that he is a moth caterpillar, rather than a butterfly, but will not be drawn any further.

Apart from the problem that most caterpillars, like our friend, are green, I didn't fully realise that while in this larval stage they continue to grow. Once hatched they begin as the tiny energetic munchers of leaves, the ones that hang from threads from trees and catch in your hair when you're gardening. And then progress through 4 or 5 instars to end up as the juicy grub we see here. Identifying them from photographs on the net are not then easy because they don't show all the changes each moth goes through before it turns into a pupa.

So we shall graciously abandon the attempt at specificity.

Moths and butterflies use different strategies to survive winter. Some like Red Admirals (this post) migrate south, others like Peacocks and Brimstones hibernate. The advice is to leave these alone if you find them, but if they are awake in a centrally heated room it would be kindest to put them outside in a shed or sheltered place. Being an egg or chrysalis is another way to wait the cold months out. But the most common method is to hunker down in vegetation as a caterpillar. And this is what the majority of British moths do.

So there we have it. We have admired the outrageous beauty of a humble caterpillar, learnt a few things about his journey to adulthood, and now know what to do if a butterfly unexpectedly joins in our Christmas festivities.

Wishing you a happy few days. Garden65 will overwinter on the sofa and will emerge butterfly-like in the new year.