Minibeasts to look for in May — Caterpillar

Photo credit: Tamsin Bent

Where to look

Look on leaves, particularly of a caterpillar's favourite food plant e.g. cinnabar moth caterpillar on ragwort. Also look for signs of their feeding, for example chewed leaves and even their tiny black pellets of poo (frass).


Butterflies and moths transform during their lives, with their young looking very different from the adults. This transformation is known as complete metamorphosis. In this, the insect goes through four distinct stages: egg, larva, pupae/chrysalis, then adult. A caterpillar is their larval stage. They come in all shapes, colours and sizes. Some are hairy with poisonous itchy hairs for protection, others are camouflaged to look like leaves and twigs while others are brightly coloured as a warning that they are poisonous. 
Basically caterpillars are stomachs with legs and their job is to eat as much food as possible! Although they are insects and so only have six true legs, you can be fooled into thinking they have more because they have developed eight ‘pro legs’ further down their body. 
Pupa is the word used for the stage before all caterpillars becomes adult, during which they are contained in and protected by a hard covering. However, a chrysalis is only used for butterflies. The word means ‘golden’ and refers to beautiful metallic sheen found on some.

Where we've found Caterpillars

Caterpillar spottings journal (12 seen)

Last seen Location Spotted by Group Notes
14 Jun 2020 Lower Amble, Cornwall Gav Blended Caterpillar!
7 Jun 2020 Rodborough Community Hall Edie Layfield Leafgatherers We saw these up by the Community Hall
5 Jun 2020 Darcie Ireland Class
27 May 2020 Stroud Valley Community School
21 May 2020 St Enodoc Golf Course Daisy Blended I saw these Lackey Moths while out for a walk at St Enodoc Golf Course. There were about 40 of them!! ⛳
21 May 2020 Rock Gavin Blended Lackey moth caterpillars in North Cornwall.
19 May 2020 Chesterton Farm Track, Cirencester Alfie Ireland Class Atleast 30+ in this amazing silk nest! **updated** Now identified as small Eggar Moths, Nationally Scarce.
19 May 2020 Garden Jo The Weaver's
19 May 2020 Cirencester Sebastian Ireland Class
15 May 2020 Hedgerow near Stanley Downton Amélie Cooks&Co
28 Apr 2020 Bisley old road Tamsin Stroud Valleys Project Saw this beautiful Garden Tiger moth caterpillar at our allotment. I can see why its common name is woolly bear!
15 Apr 2020 Garden Ella The Weaver's


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