Bird's Eye View of Bute

Elephant Hawk Moth Larvae

(1) Kerrycroy
(1) Kerrycroy
(2) Same
(2) Same
(3) Again
(3) Again
(4) More
(4) More
(5) and more
(5) and more
(6) Handy one
(6) Handy one
(7) Handy two
(7) Handy two



The Elephant Hawk Moth Larvae. (Caterpillar)

Walking from Kilchattan Bay one nice day in September 2009, keeping to the shoreline, doing a bit of everything, from Beach Combing to chasing Butterflies and daytime flying Moths. Not a very good day to be had .

Birds were thin on the ground , and in the trees for that matter, and Butterflies were few and far between, so had an early lunch, on the rocks midway from The Bay to Kerrycroy, watching Grey Seals sunbathing on the flat rocks nearby, and they looked worried for a while, then settled down, after they decided that I was no threat to them. I think that was because I pass that way quite a lot and that is my favourite place to eat, nice seat with excellent views. .
Fed and watered , continued my walk on the Kerrycroy. Had another rest, finished off my coffee ,and continued by road for the rest of the journey, but never got very far as my eye got a fix on something that I had never seen before. It was one big black caterpillar, the likes that I had never seen before. I watched it for a while climbing up the flower that goes by the name of Rosebay Willowherb. A Tall plant with plenty of leaves sticking out of the stem , ending at the top with lovely Pink Flowers.
This is the plant that grows along Railway Lines , Motorways, and any place that cars or trains can carry their seeds to another area, with their backdraught.
Well, this caterpillar had a large bulbous head and in this head is the thing that gives it it's name . It has a trunk, like an Elephant. As it moves around the plants, the trunk extends out from the head so it can feed, and as the trunk extends , the caterpillar gets bigger. This one was three inches (75MM) without extensions.
So into a container and once again phone Glyn Collis the Moth Man for the Buteshire Natural History Society, and take it to him.. At that point I did not know what it was , and he identified it for me,and had the reference book open at that page. There are two separate species ,and identification is easy. You will see on the raised tail ,the tip is white, whereas on the other one , which is rarer, there is no white and the tail is very small . Well Glyn kept it in a suitable container , and fed it until it changed into a chrysalis, then after a long period it emerged as a beautiful Moth. Pink and olive green fore-wing and pink and black hind-wing, and clearly defined pink pattern on olive-green thorax and abdomen. Altogether one striking lovely moth.
I never see the finished article ,as it only flies by night. I only find the ones that have died, and I find during the day, but when and if I find one , I will show it to you.


Well now you have seen what you may have thought to be a nasty thingy and may destroy it , but it is a harmless caterpillar , and should be admired as it can change from being an “Ugly Duckling “to being a Prince or Princess.

Norrie Mulholland
First Published in the Buteman 08-11-2013

 

 

 


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