Friday, June 4, 2010

Twiggy


At first glance I really did think that this was a small piece of twig resting in the apple leaf's surface until ....


...... I took a closer look and realised it was the caterpillar of a geometrid moth, perfectly camouflaged as a twig. I've no idea what moth this will be. If its camouflage and twig-like behaviour serves its purpose and it remembers that it's supposed to be a twig and not a leaf, and finds a twig to blend with, it might avoid the attention of roving blue tits in the garden, that are hunting for food for their nestlings. It has the most ornate mottled pattern on its head..... and .... 




... a side-on view emphasises its essential twigginess.

If you hold an umbrella inverted under a hawthorn branch at this time of year and give the branch a sharp whack several caterpillars like this often fall in ..... along with all sorts of other interesting insects and spiders that breeding blue tits are looking for.

This caterpillar has been kindly identified by Pedro Pires as the pale brindled beauty Phigalia pilosaria

11 comments:

  1. That's an awful thought Phil that you have to wander around at this time of year with an umbrella.........surely you mean a parasol!!!
    Must give it a try nevertheless. Thanks for that.
    John

    ReplyDelete
  2. I remember seeing these as a child I'd forgotten all about them.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Incredible camouflage and apparently effective-the blue tits in my garden seem to be carrying in mouthfuls of green caterpillars.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi John, I seem to remember that Natural History equipment suppliers sell a special piece of kit for catching stuff that's beaten out of branches - a bit like a fold-up white sheet on a stick - maybe I should get one - probably inferior to an umbrella, but at least I wouldn't look like a wally carrying a brolly on a summer day...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Adrian, I can remember coming home from country walks when I was a kid and finding these on my coat..

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank's Threadspider, I seem to remember reading somewhere that blue tits can actually see ultraviolet light, so the world looks a different colour to them .... so I'm not sure how they'd see a caterpillar's colours ... see http://www.bristol.ac.uk/biology/research/behaviour/vision/4d.html

    and

    http://ukpmc.ac.uk/classic/articlerender.cgi?artid=909497

    all the best, Phil

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great photos. Must try the umbrella/hawthorn idea I imagine that the kids will love it! (Me too obviously).

    ReplyDelete
  8. He certainly does look like a twig. Great close ups.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Keith, wish I'd caught it now and kept it, to see what kind of moth it was...

    ReplyDelete
  10. I think its the specie Pale Brindled Beauty Phigalia pilosaria ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the ID Pedro - greatly appreciated!

      Delete