What is this cater­pil­lar?

Amateur Gardening - - Ask John Negus -

QI am at­tach­ing a photo of a cater­pil­lar I found on my gera­nium. I have never seen one like it be­fore, so could you tell me what it is? Pa­tri­cia Wy­att, via email

AThis is the larva of the vapourer moth (Or­gyia an­ti­qua). Wide­spread in Bri­tain, it is fre­quently found in wood­lands, hedgerows, parks and gar­dens.

Eggs are laid in July and Au­gust, but cater­pil­lars don’t hatch un­til the fol­low­ing spring. Af­ter pu­pa­tion, moths emerge in July and Au­gust.

Though cater­pil­lars may nib­ble ten­der leaves and stems, they are not re­garded as pests un­less a colony feeds within a small area.

Fe­male moths are vir­tu­ally wing­less and af­ter mat­ing they lay their eggs on the co­coons from which they emerge af­ter pu­pat­ing. The adult moth, which is foxy brown with two white spots, can be seen fly­ing dur­ing the day.

This moth can be con­fused with the scarce vapourer (Or­gyia re­cens), though this is rare and re­stricted to a few sites in north Eng­land and Scot­land.

Vapourer moths are fre­quently seen through­out the UK

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