Thursday, June 21, 2007


Found this on our (very in demand, obviously) Potato plants this afternoon, before the rains came.

At 1cm long, this cannot be long out of the egg, as they will get up to 3.5cm long before pupating.

This is the Vapourer Moth Caterpillar - very distinctive, but if you are in any doubt, remember the 2 dark "horns" at the front end, and the blindingly obvious 4 cream "shaving-brushes" down its back.

As is very often the case in Butterflies and Moths, the dullest Moth often has the most extravagant, showy caterpillar - the most beautiful Butterfly or Moth often has a very plain caterpillar. The Vapourer Moth is no exception to that rule, as can be seen by the photo of the adult male (only the male Vapourer has wings - the female is little more than a bag of eggs) below (taken from the WAB site), but what a fantastic pair of feathery antennae! (Butterflies as a rule have clubbed antennae, Moths - feathery).

Vapourer Moths are very common in towns and cities - I found one in Oxford Street once, in a tiny tree outside that bloody awful, massive John Lewis store. (The tree was FAR more interesting than anything inside the building)!

Vapourer Moths are considered to be somewhat of a pest in some "leafy cities".
One last point about the Vapourer Moth is that is does have a good scientific name - Orgyia antiqua. The Antique-Orgy Moth then. Easy to remember.

NB. 23/06/07 05:00am ... less than two days later (more like one and a half really), the same Vapourer Moth Caterpillar on the same plant, and probably TREBLE its size of almost 2 days ago - at 3cm long. Greedy little chuffer.


Anonymous said...

We have 9 vapourer moth caterpillars that have taken to the front of our house and turned into pupas. Thanks for the information, we were very curious as to what the caterpillars would turn into. I have to say that my children are incredibly disappointed that they won't have beautiful butterflies emerging - but still, it will be fascinating to watch!

Caroline said...

Do you know what the male looks like if this is the female? I found one huge green caterpillar with the same tufts of hair on its back. Is that the same breed? What does the vapourer eat? The green one turned into a pupa in a tupperware box! I need to get it to the right vegetation. Any ideas?

Anonymous said...

I am so glad to have found this blog. I have a spiny reddish bush outside my house and found two of these little caterpillars on it. I was actually looking for the usual green ones that dessimate it every year but found these instead. Your blog has proved very useful so thank you very much.


michael said...

I live in yorkville IL and i just found one of these on my back deck. i have never seen something like this befor and i have lived here a while.

Anonymous said...

Hi this has really helped me as I have a huge pyracantha bush out side my house and discovered it is heaving with these caterpillars I mean it is about 12 foot tall by 3 wide and it has no leaves left and there are hundreds of sacks of eggs all over it so millions to hatch still . these hairy little feckers are everywhere .

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much, I have spent ages trying to find out what this beautiful caterpillar will turn in to. Needless to say it is more interesting as a caterpillar than a moth!

Caroline said...

Yeah - couldn't agree more - especially when I found out that this bright spotted hairy caterpillar would turn into a 'wingless' egg-laying female!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if a vapourer moth caterpillar can cause a skin reaction if it comes into contact? I was out sketching yesterday and this caterpillar appeared out of the blue on the wall where I was sketching and almost at the same time I felt the inside of my arm get really itchy and hot like it had been stung or something. I have a welt about the size of a 20p coin and it is very hot and itchy. Just wondering if I should be concerned?

Anonymous said...

Yes, apparently the hair can cause an allergic reaction to some people

Anonymous said...

Hi, great thread, helped us identify the caterpillar my wife found eating our Oak tree. Our 5 year old daughter thought it might grow into a moth so is very happy with the name and is running around singing 'I was right'.


Craig. UK.