The Vapourer Moth
Walking along Battery Place one day in August last year, I observed a lady pointing to something on the ground to her young daughter, so I was immediately at alert as to what they were looking at, and , lo-and-behold, there was this lovely caterpillar on the pavement with a variety of colours, but were not as bright as my photo presents, as my camera that I use for close-ups has a bad habit of changing it's mind ,and putting itself on to 'vivid' colour, which in this case was not too bad as, although the colour was there it was not as bright as you can now see.
Well down on my knees and take a few shots of it, and was fair chuffed as it was the first time that I had seen this species. Well I thanked the woman and her daughter for drawing my attention to it, and put in on to the garden plots at the promenade, then another lady,(Hazel) came from across the road from her Hotel to inform me that there was a strange caterpillar eating away at her Geraniums in the flower pot in her front garden. I went with her to check this out, and on her plants was the same kind of caterpillar, which is a 'Vapourer Moth'. She told me that nothing had ever eaten her Geraniums before until now. More images for me. Glad to get one, but two in the same day and place was a gift. On inspection to her plants, the underside of the leaves were covered in very small creepy-crawlies enjoying a free meal, so it looks like exit for her geraniums.
Well I made prints of this caterpillar and took them out to Hazel, only to find that the first lady and her daughter had been staying at this hotel, and that she had her address and would send a photo to her, so I was delighted. Well Glynn the moth man was keen to save these caterpillars from a certain death ,so I went out the next day and found the geranium eating one , but the other one was a bit more evasive and was not on the plant that I had put it on, so Hazel and I checked the other plants, and she spotted it on a Rose bush, so both secured in a small container, I phoned Glynn, who came a took them to his house and looked after them till they turned into moths, then I could get other images and both ladies would get a copy. Unfortunately, as they hatched out, they were both females and were very drab, in fact, the females are wingless and in fact just a bug, and not a nice looking one at that. Not the best subject to film, so I will wait till I get a good image of a male, which is much more colourful, then I will see that they both get a copy of it .
“The right place at the right time”, happens to me a lot,and I am very grateful.
First Published in the Buteman April 2010
Now to the present time, read on!
“LEAF US ALONE”
This would appear to be the cry from the trees along Battery Place and as far as Glenfaulds on Mountstuart Road,. which are being decimated with hundreds of caterpillars on each tree, being eaten with the Larvae of the Vapourer moth.
I wrote about these larvae (caterpillars) earlier this year when I noticed a mother pointing out to her daughter to one that was on the ground. then Hazel pointed out another in her garden.
I did not look for more as this was a first for Bute, and I was pleased to be shown these ones.
Now this year they are stripping the leaves of many trees along the road, and into the Rose-beds as well, and also across the road and into gardens, and if your rose bushes have not been sprayed, they will, and have been eaten. Even one Rowan tree has had part of it attacked.
A few weeks ago, when it was windy, they were to be found crawling along the pavement, now the bulk of them have formed cocoons pupated and now have emerged as Moths, with the female being a flightless bug, and the male a moth as we know them.
If you walk along Battery Place , have a look at the trunks of the trees and you will find these cocoons on them, and on the branches as well, and also on the ornamental lamposts, street lighting boxes,rubbish bins etc. They are everywhere.
I have been asked about what long term damage would befall these trees, but that is not something that I know about, and recommended the internet to help them.
The females are now laying thousands of eggs, which are easily seen, so have a walk along and see nature at it's best or worse, depending on how you feel about the trees etc.
Now this does' not mean that there will be a repeat next year, as 2010 was a good year for them it was also a bad year for the Thistle tortoise Larvae that I found last year, so all may not be lost, but don't hold your breath.. Next year will depend on how many of the eggs will be eaten by birds etc, and once they get the taste of them, they might eat them all?
Now that the bulk of the larvae have transformed, the roses are making a come back, but there are still some crawling about, so you will see them before and after if you hurry.
First Published in the Buteman September 2010