Whilst walking round the business park in which (for my sins) I work at present, I happened across this little chap(pess?).
A larval Dasychira pudibunda.
Not something that trips off the tongue, so I’ll give it a couple of its many other names if you like.
This is the “Pale tussock moth” whose caterpillar (as found today and seen in the photos here) was often known as a “Hop dog”.
“Hop-dog” because hop pickers in the days before mass insecticides etc… used to find these yellow-green hairy beasties munching their hop leaves.
Of course, nowadays, these beautiful moth larvae are more likely to find refuge in the non-sprayed woodlands and hedges of the UK, rather than hop fields.
Dasychira literally means “hairy-hand” and “pudibunda” literally means “shame-faced”, “blushing” or “bashful” - so this striking beast could be called the “shame-faced hairy hand”… I guess.
Tussock moths whether they be Pale Tussock moths, Reed Tussock moths or Dark Tussock moths all belong to the Lymantriidae faimly of moths.
Whilst the adult tussocks themselves do not feed (they’re only interested in mating) the caterpillars are voracious feeders - sometimes able to strip whole forests of leaves. Lymantria means "defiler", (of trees in this case) after all.
Our (English) vernacular name of “…. Tussock moth” clearly describes the hairy caterpillar’s hairy tussocks along its dorsal side – many of these caterpillars look like they have tiny wee shaving brushes on their back.
Pretty to look at for sure (stunning in fact) but plenty of these aesthetically-pleasing larvae possess “urticating hairs” (rather like nettles or tarantulas) which if broken over a bare piece of human skin, do have the ability to produce a bit of a rash if you’re prone to that sort of thing.
Everything about the Shame-faced hairy hand screams “DON’T EAT ME” to birds and it is far from rare because of that…
A little stunner I’m sure you’ll agree and I’ll keep one eye on this for the next few weeks – I’m pretty sure it will be looking to climb a branch (or piece of wood) and pupate soon – to emerge in May as a dull adult.
It’s so often the way with moths – bold, bright caterpillar will mean a drab adult (and vice versa).
Anyway…. A lovely thing to find outside work this morning – they’re on the hoof now…. So use your eyes…