Saturday, 13 August 2011

Mariposa nocturna gato?

Riots and rain have rather disrupted moth activities this last week, so many thanks to J-P Stacey for sending this very fine picture and account of a Puss Moth which visited his parents' balcony in Spain. I've always wanted to see a Puss Moth and still more one of their caterpillars which are stars of the UK natural world. (Update: Eek! See Comments - and tomorrow's post; but read on anyway, cos it's interesting).

Quite apart from looking astonishing, even in the strange and wonderful company of moth caterpillars generally (which, interestingly, are much more colourful than butterflies' although the latter get their own back as adult insects), they have whips on their tail to deter predators such as ichneumon wasps. These have a nasty habit of laying eggs inside caterpillars which hatch and then eat their hosts alive. Swish, flick. You're not getting away with that on a Puss Moth larva.

Anyway, over to J-P and his wife Kate who sorted the pic together:

I thought you might like two (slightly blurry) photos of what I believe was a Spanish puss moth, taken on my parents' balcony in Spain (unsurprisingly). It was a little shorter than my little finger, maybe an inch and a half, and seemed to be wearing an ermine stole (more like a White Ermine, in fact, than the White Ermine itself.)

We were near Valencia, right by the coast. There's woodland nearby but not what you'd call forest: it can get quite dry and scrubby round there. It landed in the late afternoon and was quite groggy and sleepy; I picked it up on a piece of paper and put it into a damp pot plant where it would be hidden from any predators; by the morning it was gone, so I can only hope for the best.

Do feel free to share these photos and the story on your blog, if the quality of either is good enough!

It certainly is. Thanks very much again and to Kate. And here's a Puss Moth caterpillar to end with, courtesy of the Natural History Museum. I hope I come across one myself, one day.


Nick Tanner said...

the moth in the photo is in fact a Leopard Moth, gato, spanidh for cat, probably got confused in translation, perhaps mariposa nocturna gato grande would be appropriate?


MartinWainwright said...

Thanks very much Nick - my ignorance once again. I will update (and also check out the Leopard moth's caterpillar.

Much appreciated and warm wishes


Nick Tanner said...


I'd be interested to know the Spanish name for Leopard Moth (or any other moth for that matter), as a sub A level Spanish speaker and an even more novice moth-er I'm always interested in these things. Primarily I'm a birder and I have a bird field guide in Spanish which has opened my eyes to the possibility of countless identification faux pas, for example the Spanish name for Black-headed Gull is Gaviota Reidora, which translates into English as Laughing Gull, a very rare vagrant from the Americas!. I really enjoy your blog, it makes a change from all the regimented trap lists most moth blogs contain

many thanks for your interest, Nick

MartinWainwright said...

Hi Nick

Names are fascinating aren't they? I'm saving up for the very good but very pricey book there is about moths' ones

Thanks again for your Comments which have kept me going on later posts...

Much enjoying your blogs too. The internet is a wonderful source of knowledge - this side of it anyway

all v best


jps said...

Yes, it was entirely "identification by Google" on my part; moreover, undertaken while I was still in Spain, so on a computer that refused to be convinced I wasn't Spanish myself; so confused in translation is right!

MartinWainwright said...

Hi jps - sorry only just scrolled back to this. Thanks again for prompting such an interesting discussion and giving me the excuse to use lots of curious moth-related (ish) pics

warm wishes


Jay IOW said...

Hi I found a cattapillar the same as this in my garden and picked it up as it was just sat on my path. What shall I feed it as there was no plants near by and dont want it to die. Thanks