A blitz on the veg patch today was rewarded by the discovery of several Cinnabar caterpillars, one of the reliable highlights of the moth enthusiast's year. I love this moth - red and greeny-black when an adult - here are a couple of pics, below - and yellow and black in tigerish stripes when a caterpillar.
The warning colouration is striking and, as you can see in the closer-up of the pics, it comes with an additional arsenal of spiky hairs. The caterpillar is also poisonous to birds. Interesting that we humans have chosen yellow and black as our warning sign for anything hazardous in the nuclear field.
These caterpillars were on groundsel, which we spared. Their favourite plant is ragwort which is, most unfairly, the target of ill-informed alarmists. A beautiful plant whose vivid yellow cheers up waste ground and neglected fields, it needs as many advocates and friends as possible.
The original cinnabar is a red gemstone which, when crushed, provides the pigment for vermillion paint. We have nice friends and neighbours here who have a narrowboat called Cinnabar on the Oxford Canal. Here she is.