Scary caterpillars

We came across these creepy little fellas on a walk at Puttenham, feeding on an oak leaf. Bizarrely, whilst one leaf was completely covered by them, there were no more on the tree that we could see. If they sensed movement close by, they would raise their heads and tails in a rather threatening manner and wave them blindly about.

Initially I thought they might be mullien moth caterpillars, but those aren’t hairy. When I looked them up I thought they were probably large white butterfly caterpillars, but I’ve never heard of those eating oak leaves (too busy eating brassicas). I found out that they are actually the caterpillars of the buff tip moth, Phalera bucephala, which feed on the leaves of deciduous trees. They start off feeding communally, like this, but then disperse as they progress through their instar stages.

Still, not nearly as scary as the oak processionary moth, an invader from mainland Europe which defoliates oak (and other deciduous) trees and poses a threat to health via its toxic, irritant hairs. Rather glad I didn’t meet any of those.

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7 thoughts on “Scary caterpillars

  1. They must participate in a beauty contest 😉
    This morning I had a nice Yellow-bellied Greenbul in the living room! At least, it looked like a Yellow-bellied Greenbul. The bird was very scared and you saw his heart pumping (mine too, because how do you get a bird out again). Finally, I grabbed him (her?) in a cloth.

    • Charles I’d never heard of a Yellow-bellied Greenbul. I’ve looked them up and they are very pretty. Maybe he was so scared because he was lost and a long way from home! 😉
      A few years ago we had a robin who would come in through the patio doors to take food from the table. I don’t think he would have been happy to be trapped in there though!

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