Thursday, 22 September 2011

An unlikely feline

   This fellow mooched by my front door yesterday morning (and, no, he didn't follow me around all day. I gave him the slip at lunchtime);

   It's a Fox moth caterpillar (Macrothylacia rubi), fully grown (8.5 cms long) and thus lacking the thin orange bands and black coloration it exhibits when younger. It spends the winter in leaf litter hibernating in larval form and doesn't pupate until the spring; it seems the hairs, which can cause intense irritation of the skin of anyone touching them, make the caterpillars less appetizing to foraging birds than would the pupae.

   It's interesting that the pilosity of caterpillars such as this one led to the word 'caterpillar' – it is derived from the Old French chatepelose meaning 'hairy cat'.