Watch out for caterpillars, even in March

26 March 2014

It feels rather early in the year to be seeing caterpillars, but if you think about it, they’ve got to be around soon, as the birds will be having their young, who will need food, and caterpillars are a moist morsel full of goodness for a young bird. I was picking some narcissi a couple of days ago, when I realised there was a bright green caterpillar on one of the leaves.

Bright Green Caterpillar

Bright Green Caterpillar

I’m fairly sure this is the caterpillar of the Angle Shades Moth, a very pretty moth which is quite common, so you might well see it or its caterpillar. Unfortunately, some people regard the caterpillars as a pest in the garden and kill them: I think this is because they not only eat the leaves but also the flower buds. Unless they get to plague proportions in your garden, though, the amount of damage won’t be huge, and they need to eat, too.

This is how the adult moth looks:

Angle Shades Moth on a leaf

Angle Shades Moth

Isn’t it pretty – what a gorgeous, subtle combination of colours. Very good camouflage for the moth, too.

Moths are pretty impressive close-up:

Close-up of Angle Shades Moth

Close-up of Angle Shades Moth

With eyes that size, it’s no wonder they can see you coming and get away quickly. And look at that crest – looks like something on the helmet of a Roman gladiator.

So – keep an eye open for caterpillars and don’t kill them. Not only are many moth species struggling to survive, but they form a major part of a young bird’s diet. Blue Tits, for example, will have 8-12 eggs, and each chick will eat 100 caterpillars per day (wonder who counted that?). What incredible senses the adults must have to find all that food – and I feel pleased with myself when I see one!








2 Comments to “Watch out for caterpillars, even in March”

  1. Sadly I guess most of the people who read Lyn’s blog are those who already appreciate butterflies and moths and their role in nature. I recently heard a woman giving gardening advice on the radio, advising people to go into their gardens and “squish” every caterpillar they find and was saddened to think of how many people heard her and followed her advice.

    • I get mad rather than sad. I’ve some sympathy for people who make their living via farming or horticulture, but for most of us just growing some pretty flowers, I really don’t think we’ve got the right to kill other things wholesale or poison the planet with herbicides, pesticides etc. We share this planet, we don’t own it.

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