Late caterpillars

Back in September, I was surprised to find a family of newly emerged caterpillars chomping on a hazel tree. It was the third week of September and I wasn’t confident that these little caterpillars could complete their growing before the frosts came.

1909bufftipmothcaterpillars
Buff tip moth caterpillars on hazel, 19th September 2015
1909bufftipmotheggcases
The egg cases which the caterpillars had come out from.

For the next few weeks the caterpillars kept eating and growing; the weather got colder; the days got shorter: I still wasn’t convinced that they could finish growing before the winter.

However, by the end of October it seems they’d all grown to full size (more than two inches in length) and one by one they disappeared.

2610bufftipfinal
A fully grown buff tail moth caterpillar – six leaves and six weeks after they first emerged.

Because the caterpillars were so conspicuous on a young hazel I have to pass every day, I noticed that between them they ate the equivalent of six hazel leaves each…

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