Perhaps that should really be MUNCH of the caterpillars because these little creatures are really the ultimate food processors. They eat ravenously, they ingest determinedly, they process interminably, and, yes, they pooh prodigiously. What a life!
They can be covered in bristles: watch these ones as people with sensitive skin often get a rash from touching them because they can contain chemicals to deter predators from eating them. They can be dull to blend in with the vegetation on their favourite food plant. They can be patterned in startling colours and patterns, again as a warning to predators – ‘Don’t eat me!’
These particular caterpillars are the larvae of two moths and one butterfly. The hairy ones are the moths, Oak eggar (Lasiocampa quercus) and Yellow-tail (Euproctis similis), and the spiky black one with white dots is the rather surprisingly coloured caterpillar of the Peacock butterfly (Aglais io).
As the butterflies are still enjoying their summer holidays, I have some moths and soon-to-be moths for you. These were all seen at Wales’s stunning coastal national nature reserve at Kenfig last weekend.
We have, from left:
Beautiful china-mark (Nymphula nitidulata): It was no surprise to find this near Kenfig pool as its larvae are aquatic.
Burnet: (Zygaena sp.): Not sure which of the Burnet moths this will become as the only difference in the caterpillars is the length of their hairs and I didn’t measure these.
Cinnabar (Tyria jacobaeae): The ‘Jacobaeae’ epithet comes from its larval foodplant, Senecio jacobaea, aka Common ragwort.
Grass rivulet (Perizoma albulata): As well as loving grasslands, these little beauties also love a nice sandy beach.
Lackey (Malacosoma neustria): We’ve had these before if you remember (Lackey me).
Oak eggar (Lasiocampa quercus): Don’t go searching around oak trees for this one: its name comes from the acorn-like shape of its cocoon.
Small china-mark (Cataclysta lemnata): Apparently, they don’t often open their wings to show the underwing markings. I got lucky!
Straw dot (Rivula sericealis): Straw coloured with a dot on each wing. I think I might actually remember this one.
Yellow-tail (Euproctis similis): I have yet to see the moth but it seems the female has a yellow tuft of hairs on her bottom.