Oak Eggar

Lasiocampa quercus – I came across this striking hairy caterpillar as it crawled over a sea wall when I was on a visit to Llandudno, Wales. They do not feed on oak as the English name leads us to believe, but its cocoon looks much like an acorn. The hairs may cause skin irritation, which is the caterpillar’s defense mechanism. They can grow up to 80mm (3 -1/8in) long.

Oak Eggar Lasiocampa quercus

Oak Eggar Lasiocampa quercus

Oak Eggar Lasiocampa quercus

The larva can take a year to grow in the south, and two years further north where it is cooler. They feed quite rapidly and change appearance as they grow which can make them hard to identify compared to other Eggars. It feeds on a variety of plants, including heather and bramble.

Double-click images to enlarge.

© Peter Hillman ♦ 24th April 2014 ♦ West Shore, Llandudno, Wales ♦ Nikon D3200

Yellow And Black And Hairy All Over

No wonder the birds don’t fancy eating them and the Ragwort in the fields is teeming with these brightly coloured caterpillars of the Cinnabar (Tyria jacobaeae), a moth which can be seen flying amongst the grasses during the daytime, especially when disturbed. Please see the adult last in line below.

The Cinnabar Tyria jacobaeae larva

The Cinnabar Tyria jacobaeae larva

The Cinnabar Tyria jacobaeae larva

The Cinnabar Tyria jacobaeae

Local field, July 2019. Nikon D7200 © Peter Hillman.

Lesser Yellow Underwing

Noctua comes – This moth caterpillar almost turned a darker shade of  oak on Saturday when I was staining my back fence. Thankfully I spotted it in time and relocated it near a similar foodplant opposite, stopping to take a few snaps of it. The image below shows it rolled up in defensive mode, making it look less like a caterpillar to a prying bird. The head is in the centre with its suckered, almost toothed feet (prolegs) and front legs (true legs) like fingernails wrapped around it. Double click for a better look.

Lesser Yellow Underwing Noctua comes caterpillar

Lesser Yellow Underwing Noctua comes

It may have just come out of winter hibernation (or I inadvertently woke it up). It is not a fussy eater and will feed on a range of bushes, trees and herbaceous plants. It tends to feed at night, then hides from predation during the day. It will eventually pupate underground before becoming the adult.

Rear garden, Staffordshire,May 2018. © Peter Hillman

From Head To Tail With a Grin

Large Yellow Underwing Noctua pronuba larva

This happy caterpillar will grow up into a noctuid moth one day. Apparently the larvae are rarely seen, feeding on various herbaceous and woody plants during the night and remaining concealed on the food plant during the day.

Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba). Rear garden, Staffordshire, England. April 2017.

Caterpillar Spinning Silk

Caterpillar Spinning Silk

I spotted this tiny caterpillar on a leaf of one of my rose bushes (this one seems to get a lot of caterpillar attention of various kinds for some reason), and it was weaving itself a little silk shelter of sorts.

Photograph of caterpillar spinning silk, taken August 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Early Stage Caterpillar

Early Stage Caterpillar

I discovered this tiny early stage caterpillar on the underside of one of my rose leaves. I wonder what it will turn into?

Photograph  taken in July 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Rose Ravagers

Whilst deadheading some roses in the garden, I came across these happy pair which had virtually munched their way through a whole rose-leaf. It is called Arge nigripes.

Notice how the one has it back-end in the end. This is a tell-tale sign that these are not your normal moth or butterfly caterpillar, but the larva of a species of sawfly. If disturbed they will whip their tails around to ward off predation, sometimes spraying a foul chemical. Another way to tell is that they have six or more prolegs, a few more than their lepidopteran friends.

They are quite gregarious creatures, so I guess I am fortunate to just have the two of them, as far as I could see. Although I did spot a bunch of other sawfly larvae shortly after, rapidly consuming fresh rose shoots, but that’s another story.

This one here is almost quite cute as he hugs the leaf and almost appears to smile …

In large numbers sawfly larvae can become a serious pest, but thankfully they appear to be doing but a little harm to my roses. And when viewed from above it has quite beautiful pale and dark green stripes running the length of it, and a darkish brown stripe on its head.

Sawflies belong to the order of insects called Hymenoptera, same as the bees, wasps and ants. Adult sawflies are harmless and do not sting. The females cut through plant tissue to lay their eggs inside. And the result are these hungry caterpillars.

Photographs taken July 2016, on rose-bush, rear garden, Staffordshire.

Hebrew Character Caterpillar

Orthosia gothica

I came across this caterpillar near my local pond on sedge. It feeds mainly at night in April to July, feeding on the buds at first and then the leaves. It feeds on a wide range of vegetation, including trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. It overwinters as a pupa in a cocoon underground, with the fully formed adult inside it.

Photographs taken June 2011, local pond, Staffordshire.