Grey Dagger caterpillar -Acronicta psi (Garden)

Wingspan 30-40 mm.

The ‘daggers’ get their English names from the black dagger-like markings on the forewings.

This moth is almost impossible to tell by the markings alone from the Dark Dagger (A. tridens), and reference usually has to be made to the genitalia for confirmation. The caterpillars of the two species are quite different, however.

It flies between June and August and is common throughout England, Wales and Ireland, scarcer in Scotland.

The colourful larva is marked with red and yellow and has a tall ‘hump’ on the back, close to the head…. Uk Moths

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Broom Moth Caterpillar – Ceramica pisi (St Davids, Wales)

Wingspan 32-37 mm. A very variable species, with the ground colour varying between greyish brown to a dark chestnut colour, and the intensity of the markings varying too.

Inhabiting open woodland and heathland, it is quite common in most of Britain.

It flies between May and July, and is attracted to light.

The distinctive brown and yellow striped caterpillar feeds not only on broom (Cytisus scoparius), but also on bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) and other trees and plants… UK Moths

Pale Prominent Pterostoma palpina- Moth (Caterpillar) River Cam

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Wingspan 35-55 mm.

A distinctive moth when at rest, though well camouflaged, it has long labial palps and tufts on the tail segment, creating an elongated appearance.

Occurring throughout much of Britain, it is most common in the south.

It flies in May and June, and in the south, again in August.

The larval foodplants are poplar (Populus), and sallow (Salix)… UK Moths

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This is UK Moths photo but shows you what the moth looks like

Polygonia comma caterpillar (Gamlingay Woods WTNR)

On emerging, the young larva moves to the underside of a leaf where it feeds. As it matures it feeds on the upperside of the leaf and is quite unmistakable, resembling a bird dropping. This stage lasts around 5 weeks, depending on temperature. Larvae of the first brood moult 4 while those of the second brood moult 3 times.

A poor photo considering it didn’t move, but it was just out of reach.

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Elephant Hawk Moth Caterpillar -Deilephila elpenor (Gransden Wood WTNR)

 The caterpillars are seen from July to September and are very characteristic: greyish-green or brown with two enormous, black eyespots towards the head. When disturbed, they swell up to show these spots and scare-off predators. The caterpillars feed on willowherbs, fuchsia and bedstraw, and the adults feed on nectar. The caterpillars overwinter as chrysalides, hidden amongst low vegetation or in the soil.

To see the adult moth click here 

P. affinis caterpillar hunting wasp (cavenham heath NR)

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Distribution
The range of P. hirsuta extends along the southern and western coasts from West Sussex to Lancashire. There are also a few scattered inland localities. An apparently separate population is found on the Norfolk coast. Its range may overlap with that of P. affinis. The species is also present on Guernsey (Luff, 1904, 1905a) and Jersey, but on the latter it is difficult to distinguish from the very similar P. luffii (a species not known from mainland Britain).

Status (in Britain only)
Listed in Falk (1991) as Nationally Notable (Nb).

Habitat
A mainly coastal species and one which is often locally common on sandy soils.

Flight period
Females fly from late March to mid-September, males from the end of June to the beginning of September. Maneval (1939) showed that females (but not males) overwinter as adults, presumably after mating. Autumnal clusters of up to several hundred females have sometimes been found in rock crevices and other protected situations in continental Europe. Given the long flight period, it would be interesting to know whether the offspring of overwintering females themselves overwinter without nesting, as in the pompilid Anoplius viaticus, or whether some of them nest to produce a second generation which overwinters.

Prey collected
As in most Podalonia species, many of the prey of P. hirsuta are large, naked ‘cut-worm’ noctuid larvae which spend daylight hours in underground burrows and therefore have to be dug out by the female wasp. Diurnally active prey species have also been recorded, however, including some that are hairy.

Nesting biology
In most Podalonia species, including P. hirsuta, the prey is generally captured before nest construction, whereas in Ammophila this sequence is usually reversed, though there are exceptions to this generalisation in both genera (see under P. affinis). The unicellular nest is invariably provisioned with one large caterpillar, whereas more than one is often used by Ammophila. While the wasp is digging her burrow, the paralysed caterpillar is typically left in a small tuft of vegetation, which probably reduces the risk of it being discovered by predators, such as ants, or of desiccating on the hot sand. The burrow is oblique and 6-7 cm long. When it is complete, the prey is pulled into the cell, oviposited on, then the nest entrance closed using sand and debris. Steiner (1975) reports that females commonly open other females’ nests and carry off their prey, as also occurs in Ammophila.

BWARS Podalonia hirsuta

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