Saturday, 12 August 2017

Nursery world

Last week I featured a clutch of bright green eggs which had been laid on the metal collar of the moth trap by an unknown visitor. I had no idea whether they would hatch but they caused great fascination to my visiting grand-daughter whose excitement at having moths on her fingers was exceeded by this novel concept of carrying moth eggs around in a little box and showing them to everyone she met.

Now they have hatched - and into something which should add more interest and enjoyment to the grand-daughter's young life. They have produced the caterpillars of one of the hawk moths; I suspect a Poplar Hawk whose second generation is the only one around in the eggboxes at the moment (see bottom picture of one which called this morning). I am trying them with a mixture of willow and buddleia (not having any poplars nearby, although that has never stopped Poplar Hawks from being a very frequent visitor. Willows are their larvae's secondary foodplant.

The feature that most fascinates me about these tiny new arrivals in my home is that the familiar horn at the end of the caterpillar's tail is already one of its most distinctive features. In the US it has led to their alternative title of 'hornworms'. I am Googling desultorily to see if I can find any information about the purpose of the horn and will pass it on if I do. My main discovery is how easy it is to buy moth eggs commercially for rearing the insects, but I do not have time to go into caterpillar kindergarten work on a major scale.


Anonymous said...

Hi Martin

What a bit of luck having such an impressive caterpillar to rear! If they don't fancy the Willow and you have some nearby, maybe give Sallow a try. Hope you manage to get a couple all the way to moths.

AlexW said...

I heard from some website that the tobacco hornworm horn is supposed to scare parasitoids. However, I'm not sure of the accuracy of that statement..

Martin Wainwright said...

Hi both - sorry for delay - we have visitors again and i've been busy with other things. I will see if I can seek out Sallow - and Poplar - and see how they behave. All seems well at the moment. Alex, there seems to be lots online about hornworms and horticulture. I believe that the famous Death's Head hawkmoth was persecuted here in the UK as a threat to potato crops, but it's far too rare a visitor to have that status now. Anyway, here's hoping that the little brood thrives. All best M