Species of the Month - August 2017
Broom Moth caterpillar
pisi (formerly Melanchra pisi)
caterpillars appear from mid July, when they are very small, to mid
September, when they reach a size of 40-45 mm before pupating.
They are frequently seen in the daytime and feed on an extraordinary
variety of plants.
caterpillar comes in two colour forms, green banded with a bluish-green
head, and brown-banded with a pinkish-brown head. This does not
seem age-related, and I imagine that each caterpillar keeps the same
colouring through all its moults. It would be interesting to know
if there is any correlation between colouring and food-plant. The
yellow stripes are common to both colour forms.
Cross-leaved Heath (Erica tetralix) is a popular food-plant. Other
plants we have recorded it on include Heather, Purple Moor Grass, Sitka
Spruce, Bracken, Deergrass, Dwarf Birch, Yellow Saxifrage, Devilsbit
Scabious, Bog Myrtle, Soft Downy Rose, Jointed Rush, Bramble and Grass
of Parnassus. It was not seen actually feeding on the plant on
each occasion, but on several of them it was, and the books list many
other plants that it feeds on. So they're never likely to go
hungry. Unless of course different genetic strains are restricted
to different plants.
This one was found on gravel by the shore of Loch Tralaig, perhaps looking for a pupation site, as it was quite large and late in the year. They form a cocoon within the soil and spend the winter inside it as a pupa, emerging as an adult moth from late May onwards.
Broom Moth caterpillars are most often seen in open country such as heathland and moorland. They are not likely to be confused with any other species occuring at the same time of year. They have just 4 fairly broad bright yellow stripes, and 3 even broader green or brown stripes. Most other species with longitudinal stripes have some of the stripes very narrow.
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Aug 2016 - Black Darter