UPDATE! Garden Tiger Moth – Arctia caja

A week ago we posted about a Garden Tiger Moth laying eggs in the garden, click HERE. This occurred on the 30th July 2022.

Well it didn’t take long for the eggs to hatch, so whatever happened to the mother in the end, she achieved what she came to do. The video below was taken on 11th August 2022. With dozens of larvae feeding on the Green Alkenet leaf where they hatched.

11th August 2022

The white eggs are empty (and some are being eaten by their previous occupants / siblings) and the grey we believe are about to hatch, with the gold coloured ones a little further behind in development.

One or two larvae had strayed to the upper surface of the leaf (where most would eventually end up, see below), but on this first day most remained safe on the underside. The photo opposite shows little evidence of the large number of hungry caterpillars below the surface on the first day.

The following day (12th August 2022) all the eggs had hatched, with nearly all the larva remaining on the underside of the leaf, at least to start with.

The caterpillars are shown below in close up and we feel look pretty cool, but will change considerably as they mature through several phases where they will shed their skin to accommodate their increase in size.

12th August 2022

By the end of day 2 most of the caterpillars had moved to the top surface of the leaf, we think because the more hairy undersides were too difficult to munch on. The damage to the ‘Birth’ leaf was already considerable at this point, as shown below.

12th August 2022

We have plenty more Green Alkanet in the garden, but none near this particular plant, which is located rather precariously next to the path.

We were starting to think we may have to relocate some or all of these guys to alternative food plants, until early on day 3 (13th August 2022) we noted that many had dropped from the now nearly stripped birth leaf onto a totally different species, bindweed and began happily munching away. We note that Butterfly Conservations website does point out the larva can feed on a wide variety of plants. So our next concern is the knapweed and oxeye daisy plants we grew on from seed / plugs right next to these guys isn’t totally munched away.

13th August 2022

You may note that some of the above leaves are littered with black pellets as shown below. In the age old tradition of biologists trying to avoid calling poop ‘poop’ these black dots (of poop) are known as Frass and have dropped from the birth leaf above.

13th August 2022

We’ll have to keep an eye on their progress, make sure we can do as much for them as possible, whilst also protecting the native wildflowers we have grown from seed.


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