Saturday, 5 September 2015

Eye, eye

Penny has further cemented her reputation as our household's top moth-spotter by discovering this wonderful beast while indulging in her favourite pastime of weeding our gravel forecourt.

It is an Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar with the grey 'trunk' and Johnny Depp-style sets of eyes which give the species its name - one which sometimes puzzles those who find the pink, olive and golden adult.  Mind you, pink elephants have their place in English folklore.

This one is ready to pupate. When younger, the caterpillars are green instead of brown and tend to spend their time on the shady lower leaves of Rosebay Willowherb. I have recounted several times on the blog how my youthful interest in butterflies and moths was hugely encouraged by the kindly curator of natural History at Leeds City Museum, John Armitage. He told my brother and me to look for Elephant Hawk catties in August on the willowherb which then covered the embankments of Leeds ring road at Meanwood. We followed his advice, found a clutch and reared them to perfect adult moths.

I actually found more caterpillars in the garden yesterday than Penny, but mine were of no interest. Indeed even a moth enthusiast such as myself has no time at all for these devourers of cabbage, Brussels sprouts and even my poor nasturtiums. We have quite enough Large White butterflies to be going on with.

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