20 January 2009

White Spot moth

What does this caterpillar turn into?
I photographed this beautiful caterpillar on the hillside above Simonstown while looking for the endemic Lachenalia capensis with Graham Duncan one Sunday in October. It seemed like a good photo to use with the article by Gavin Maneveldt Is your garden green? that encourages readers to garden in an environmentally friendly way. How could anyone poison or squash such a cute creature?
I have had many queries asking what it is, and thanks to Simon van Noort of Iziko Museums of Cape Town (via their excellent website http://www.biodiversityexplorer.org/) it has been identified as the caterpillar of the White Spot moth (Mesocelis monticola, Family Lasiocampidae).

Simon van Noort kindly sent the accompanying photograph and description of the male moth, which is blackish brown with a central white spot on each forewing. The females he says are wingless and remain in their cocoons that are spun within the twigs of a shrub. The caterpillars feed on a variety of plants from pines to Rhus and Watsonia.
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