Monday, 8 June 2009

On the run..or at least crawl

Here's the year's first caterpillar, pictured making a break from one of our veg beds where Penny and I have been frantically gardening in between attending late night, and very depressing, election counts. It's a Large White, I think, although generally they're outnumbered here by their Small and Green-veined relatives; I shall do some research later when time allows. It was twisting its head (the bit at the top of the pic) nervously about in a way which I've noticed before in fully-grown caterpillars. Either it's a symptom of The Change coming, which is pretty spectacular; imagine turning from something squashy and soft like this into a hard, sharp-edged chrysalis. Or it's got an infestation from a parasitic wasp, a very nasty fate but Nature's helping hand for those of us who grow cabbages.


sarah meredith said...

Hi Martin, i love seeing the photos close up - it is really extraordinary to see the beautiful designs on these guys (and girls in the case of the Brontes). I am surprised that this is the first caterpillar you have seen. Do you not have the horrid tent caterpillars in the spring? This year has been better up at the farm, but in the last few years, whole swaths of trees have been eaten naked by the caterpillars. We think that it was a result of global warming - the bird babies used to coincide with the eruption of the tents, but now things are askew. This year we have an extraordinary number of robins and several other birds we have never seen before. One of these weekends when I have a moment, I will get out the bird book and try to identify them.

MartinWainwright said...

Hail American one! I always get excited by seeing a caterpillar because on the whole you don't, even a very common one like this. We occasionally get modest British versions of your infestations, but actually you've prompted me to look out a photo from the Sun which Olly sent me the other day of a whole car cocooned by a caterpillar 'tent', just like the ones you describe, in Holland. We were sadly excited on our recent visit to the States to see a Cardinal bird. Could you dope a couple and cost them so we could release them here? (Only kidding, should HM Revenue & Customs be reading)

sarah meredith said...

Hey Martin, your comment about the cardinals reminds me of my mother (bless her lawless soul) who used to regularly smuggle plants from Europe back to her garden in Jenkintown Pa. One that took hold was some sort of beautiful blue flower that she found when she and my Dad were guests at something called the Wilton Park Conference - in Sussex?, Surrey? So I will try my hardest to channel her and do something about your lack of cardinals. Actually, though we see them here more often, they are still a thrill. And in the bird department, I went for a rainy run around the reservoir in Central Park just now and saw not only some cormorants, and varieties of ducks, but also a Night Heron AND Pale Male the famous hawk (or maybe one of his many progeny).